The report on state of human rights in Pakistan suggests that government needs to reorient the economy towards increased productivity and gainful employment for all.

According to the report released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on the State of Human Rights in 2019, Pakistan needs to eliminate poverty not only through effective and universal social safety nets in the short run, but also by developing a people-centered economy where market forces are subservient to people's welfare.

It also suggests that government must re-prioritize public spending in favour of health, education and fundamental municipal services. The year 2019 will be remembered for the systematic curbing of political dissent by various means, constraints to the freedom of the mainstream media, digital surveillance, and the over-regulation of social media spaces.

Interviews with opposition leaders were taken off air during broadcast. The government decided to put a squeeze on independent and critical voices, particularly targeting some newspapers and muffling voices on many television channels, including Aaj TV.

Several thousand journalists, photographers and other people relating to media lost their jobs, and a number of newspapers and magazines ceased to publish because government advertisements were blocked and dues to media houses remained unpaid.

According to the report governments old economic team was replaced by old faces from previous regimes and professionals approved of by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

A desperate loan agreement with the IMF refuted the government's earlier rhetoric of discouraging borrowing. The agreement with IMF put Pakistan in a tight economic situation.

To fully comply with the conditions set forth by debt-providing international financial institutions, the government adopted a policy of austerity measures which includes introducing major cuts in public expenditure on development, and increasing tax rates and levying new taxes without any proper preparation in a largely undocumented economy.

As a result of these measures growth was stifled, the currency was devalued substantially, the stock exchange plummeted, and businesses slowed down. The country witnessed neither an increase in productivity and exports as a result of these policies, nor did we see any comprehensive agricultural, industrial or infrastructure plans.

Hyperinflation and unprecedented power and energy price hikes, coupled with a sharp decline in income among the middle, lower, and working classes, brought about extraordinary hardships for ordinary people. Poverty indicators soared and unemployment rose to new levels.

The major cuts in spending on health and education hit the underprivileged people — a large part of Pakistan's population – directly.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020