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PML-N lawmaker Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh
PML-N lawmaker Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh

ISLAMABAD: For a ruling party member of the National Assembly, who also heads the key standing committee on finance, everything in the country is being managed through “under the table deals” despite the government’s best efforts.

Taking part in budget discussion, Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh also held parliament responsible for not taking a lead in running affairs of the country and allowing bureaucracy to rule the roost.

Mr Sheikh, a businessman from Chiniot, minced no words in accepting the fact that the government had also failed in bringing in meaningful governance-specific reforms.

“I am in the business for the past 30 years and can say it with certainty that nothing has changed. There may be some good people in the ministry of finance and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), but underneath it’s the same old story where people get their work done through under the table deals,” Mr Sheikh roared to the thunderous applause of lawmakers from across the aisle for taking a bold stance against his own government.

Drawing upon his experience as head of the important National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance, Mr Sheikh said that due to mismanagement at various levels, the country had failed to take off in terms of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

However, Mr Sheikh reserved his main criticism for his fellow lawmakers and committee members.

“Inside the finance committee, we are told by bureaucrats that we cannot give our input on certain issues. If we cannot provide suggestions then why are we here in the parliament, just to nod our heads,” a pumped up Mr Sheikh said.

In the heat of the moment, Mr Sheikh especially blamed finance secretary Waqar Masood for keeping lawmakers at bay.

“I do respect services of Mr Masood for the country, but he is also the one who always says we [parliamentarians] have nothing to do with financial matters.”

Witnessing across-the-board thumping of desks for Mr Sheikh, National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said: “The kind of appreciation you [Sheikh] have received shows your argument carries weight.”

At the same time, the speaker advised Mr Sheikh that as chairman of the finance committee he possessed enough powers which he must use to achieve desired results. “As the chairman of the committee you should make recommendations.”

In his speech, Amjad Ali Khan of the PTI hit out at the government for enforcing unfair tax system in the country which he said was only increasing the difference between the rich and the poor.

At the same time, Mr Khan said that the country was losing around Rs700 billion every year to the corruption at FBR.

“The major causality of the faulty tax system is health and education sectors because at the end of the day they are made to suffer the shortage of funds in the kitty,” the PTI lawmaker said.

Muhammad Jamalud Din of JUI-F in his speech blamed all ills of the country on interest-based banking system.

He said that on the one hand Pakistan was having troubled relations with all its neighbours, including Afghanistan, and on the other “we are inviting the wrath of Almighty Allah by following interest-based economy”.

Chief whip of PTI Dr Shireen Mazari asked the speaker about the status of her privilege motion which she had submitted against Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif.

In his response, the speaker said she would be conveyed the decision after due process was completed.

In her quick speech, Dr Mazari informed the house that since the bi-partisan women’s parliamentarian caucus didn’t stand by her against offensive remarks passed by Mr Asif, she along with other opposition women members of parliament, were planning to stay away from the caucus and at the same time “we will write to the world over affiliates of the caucus about their role for not defending rights of women”.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2016