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Opposition boycotts budget process, gives leeway to govt

Updated June 13, 2017


Shah Mahmood Qureshi — File
Shah Mahmood Qureshi — File

ISLAMABAD: In an unprecedented move, opposition parties on Monday announced that they had decided to completely dissociate themselves from the ongoing budget process, thus providing an open field to the government to get the federal budget passed without any hassle.

The announcement was made by parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the floor of the National Assembly before staging a walkout with other opposition members as part of their speech-and-boycott policy which they had been following since May 29 when the government refused to live telecast their speeches on state-run television.

The prime minister’s son-in-law and MNA from Mansehra retired Capt Mohammad Safdar takes a potshot at PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi in his speech.
The prime minister’s son-in-law and MNA from Mansehra retired Capt Mohammad Safdar takes a potshot at PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi in his speech.

The decision to boycott the budget process was made at a meeting of all the opposition parties presided over by Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah before the start of the assembly session.

“The opposition had submitted more than 5,000 cut motions. But we have decided to dissociate ourselves from the whole budget process and we will not hold debate on the cut motions,” declared Mr Qureshi.

Speaker issues production order for Jamshed Dasti

He said the government members must be happy over the opposition’s decision without realising how much damage they were causing to the democratic setup and their reputation.

Pointing to the empty front rows, he said all the key ministers were absent from the house which showed lack of interest on the part of the government members in the budget process.

According to parliamentary experts, if the planned boycott happens then this will be the first time in the country’s parliamentary history that a government will be able to get the budget passed budget without voting on cut motions.

The opposition members submit “cut motions” seeking a symbolic cut, ranging from Re1 to Rs100, from the allocated grants of various ministries. Under the rules, the movers of the motions are allowed to speak in support of their motions and then the speaker put these motions before the house for a vote. Besides the general debate, opposition parties get an opportunity to criticise the performance and policies of a government.

This phase of the budget process is considered to be the most crucial for the government as the ruling party has to ensure presence of its maximum number of members in the house to defeat the opposition’s motions.

The house also witnessed rumpus when the treasury and the opposition members raised slogans against each other when the opposition members started walking out of the chamber.

As soon as the opposition members staged the walkout, the prime minister’s son-in-law and MNA from Mansehra retired Capt Mohammad Safdar took the floor and lashed out at the opposition parties for their decision to boycott the budget process.

Mr Safdar particularly targeted PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi in his speech and made some personal attacks on him. He said as foreign minister Mr Qureshi was a complete failure. He alleged that the Panama Papers case was a conspiracy not against the prime minister but against the whole country which had started showing progress under the present government.

Jamshed Dasti

Earlier, Speaker Ayaz Sadiq informed the house that he had issued a production order for independent MNA from Muzaffargarh Jamshed Dasti allowing him to participate in the assembly proceedings. He said that he had issued the production order after receiving an application from the detained MNA.

The police claimed that the MNA had been arrested for allegedly instigating people and forcibly releasing water into a minor canal which was closed under a rotational programme because of the shortage of water in the area.

At the outset of the session, Opposition Leader Shah regretted that the rulers had lost patience and were not ready to accommodate the opposition. He alleged that Jamshed Dasti was being victimised due to his “aggressive attitude” and protest during the president’s address to the joint sitting of the parliament.

Mr Shah also expressed concern over the prevailing situation in the Middle East and said that the whole parliament had urged the government not to become part of any alliance in the ongoing conflict in the Arab world.

Mr Qureshi also criticised the government’s foreign policy with particular reference to the prevailing situation in the Gulf region.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2017