ISLAMABAD, June 4: An unexpected walkout by Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in protest against continued violence in Karachi and an unusually reasoned attack by the opposition PML-N on the government’s economic policies marked the opening of the debate on the budget in the Senate on Monday. Opening the debate as per parliamentary tradition, Opposition Leader Ishaq Dar of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in his well-prepared speech alleged that the government’s economic managers had once again set “over-projected” revenue targets whereas they had shown “under-estimated” running expenditures.

Soon after the break for Maghrib prayers, MQM’s Tahir Mashhadi requested Mr Dar to allow him to raise an important issue on a point of order. The furious MQM senator, after getting the floor, drew the attention of the members over the continued killings in Karachi. Mr Mashhadi said Karachi had witnessed another bloodbath on Monday and target killings had become an order of the day in the city.

He alleged that traders were being kidnapped for ransom but no one was there to control the situation. All the MQM members staged a walkout after Mr Mashhadi’s remarks.

Chief whip of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Islamuddin Sheikh brought the MQM members back to the house and asked the deputy chairman to convey the coalition partner’s concerns to the Sindh and federal governments through his offices.

DEBATE: During his 130-minute speech, which was later termed “wonderful” by Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch, PML-N’s Ishaq Dar claimed that the PPP-led coalition government had launched Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) on the proposal he had submitted as the finance minister at a cabinet meeting in April 2008 when his party was a part of the government soon after the elections.

“The record of the cabinet meeting is available,” he said, disclosing that he had suggested that the programme be named “Pakistan Income Support Programme” and the government had only replaced the word “Pakistan” with “Benazir”.

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