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Big Embarrassment For Imran Khan Govt; Sri Lankan Man Lynched To Death In Pakistan; Embassy In Serbia Mocks PM

After a Sri Lankan citizen was lynched to death on charges of blasphemy in the Sialkot city of Pakistan’s Punjab, condemnations have poured in. 

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has called it a ‘very embarrassing day’ for Pakistan, while on the other hand, the people of this country are themselves distraught with the shocking event.

Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara, who worked in a factory in Sialkot, was beaten to death by a mob on charges of blasphemy and later his body was burnt.

After the trend of videos and pictures related to it on social media, politicians, diplomats, social workers and common people have also expressed anger over this incident and asked the government to pay attention to the burgeoning fundamentalism in the country.

Pakistan PM Imran Khan tweeted: The horrific vigilante attack on factory in Sialkot & the burning alive of Sri Lankan manager is a day of shame for Pakistan. I am overseeing the investigations & let there be no mistake all those responsible will be punished with full severity of the law. Arrests are in progress.

President Arif Alvi tweeted: I appreciate the prompt action taken by the Prime Minister and Government of Pakistan. The Sialkot incident is definitely very sad & shameful, and not religious in any way whatsoever. Islam is a religion that established cannons of deliberative justice rather than mob lynchings.

Embarrassing Day For Pakistan 

Pakistan found itself in an embarrassing situation after the Twitter handle of the country’s Embassy to Serbia posted a parody video, with a caption saying, “I am sorry, Imran Khan, am not left with another option.”

“How long do you want us government officials, Imran Khan, to remain silent and continue working for you without being paid for the past three months, while our children have been pushed out of school owing to non-payment of fees? Is this Pakistan’s Naya (new) era?” tweeted the verified embassy handle.

The episode has come as a massive embarrassment for the Imran Khan government that has been involved in big-ticket military purchases amid a looming economic crisis, a precedent that it had earlier denied before accepting how inflation has crippled the functioning of the government.

There has been significant outrage among Pakistani Twitter users with some suggesting that strict action must be taken for those behind the tweet. Some also questioned the veracity of the tweet and suggested that the handle could have been hacked, while others rushed to make memes.

The video has now been taken down, as reported by CNBC. The video included a parody song with the verse “Aapne ghabrana nahi hai”, loosely translated to an oft-repeated phrase by the Prime Minister that means “You don’t have to worry.”

The tweets were quickly taken down, and Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry issued an explanation. It said that the social media pages of the Pakistani embassy in Serbia had been compromised. It said that the embassy and its workers were unrelated to the tweet and that the Twitter account had been hacked.

Even though Islamabad swiftly ran into damage-control mode, the tweet has drawn fresh attention to the sorry state of affairs in Pakistan and its ailing economy. The damage control and public denial do not conform with Imran Khan’s own revelation that the government was unable to carry out routine tasks due to a lack of funds.

Inflation And The Economic Crisis

In October this year, it was reported that inflation in Pakistan had reached its highest level in 70 years, prompting opposition parties to stage protests. Food prices have reportedly doubled in Pakistan with oil, sugar, bread, and chicken reaching an all-time high.

“The country is paying the price for inflation, economic devastation, and unemployment, and the administration has no idea that it is not only the poor who are suffering but also those in white-collar positions,” said Shahbaz Sharif, the leader of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League (N).

According to official figures issued by Pakistan on December 1, the country’s inflation rate in November was 11.5 percent, up from 9.2 percent in October.

Inflation statistics for South Asian countries (via Twitter)

Inflation has been on the rise across the globe primarily due to pandemic mounted costs. In October, the consumer price index in the United States increased by 6.2 percent over the previous month. Annual inflation in Europe reached 4.1 percent, the highest level in 13 years. This is the most rapid price increase since 1990.

“Yes, there has been inflation, and it has harmed the salaried class, and consumption of power, oil, and ghee is increasing in our country”, said the Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry in an interview with journalist Kashif Abbasi on a private TV channel.

“There are two more causes for the rise in global markets, in addition to supply chain issues as a result of the pandemic. One is that oil and gas prices have resumed their upward trend. During the Coronavirus outbreak, oil and gas-producing countries reduced production as demand for fuel fell, Sabnam Kalimi, a professor of finance at the University of Maryland told BBC Urdu.

The inflation in Pakistan and the resultant economic crisis is a result of the global market shocks as well as some troubles of its own making. Now that the tweet has exposed new exigencies in the country, more deliberate corrective actions could be expected.

As of now, the Pakistan government aims to combat inflation by increasing agricultural productivity to ensure food security and self-sufficiency to counter food inflation by offering farm loans. It has also been in talks with the International Monetary Fund to seek relaxation in the terms and conditions of an economic package.

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