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ISLAMABAD: A day after creating rumpus in both houses of parliament while the federal budget was being presented on Friday, the opposition parties have now announced that they will fully participate in the budget debate starting from next week in the National Assembly and the Senate.

When contacted on Saturday, top leaders of the two main opposition parties — the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) — said they had decided not to boycott the budget session to give the government a “tough time” while it scrambled to pass the budget.

Talking to reporters in Islamabad, Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah regretted the government’s move to present the budget through an un-elected person and termed it an “insult” to the whole parliament. He said it was strange that the government had been unable to find a single elected representative in the 342-member house to deliver the budget speech.

Govt hopes to pass budget by May 14

What if the Supreme Court took notice of this, he questioned, adding that the government had breached the privilege of the house and a resolution could also be moved in this regard. He said they would present their viewpoint in the house to bring it on record.

PTI’s parliamentary leader in National Assembly Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Dawn that his party would fully participate in the budget session with the intent to expose the “fraud” committed by the government in the name of budget. “This budget is a fraud. This is a joke. It is a political gimmick. We want to expose this gimmickry,” Mr Qureshi said.

The PTI leader blamed the government for unruly scenes in National Assembly during the finance minister’s speech.

He claimed that he had already warned the government through the speaker that their insistence on presenting a full-year budget at the end of its term could create “ugly scenes” in the house. Furthermore, he said, the government had added fuel to the fire when it asked a non-elected person to deliver the budget speech.

Mr Qureshi denied that PTI members had returned to the house to “physically” prevent the minister from delivering his speech. He claimed that the members had wanted to protest in front of the minister’s dais because they wanted TV cameras to air their demonstration, while they were telecasting the speech live.

Mr Qureshi said it was their democratic right to register a protest inside and outside the parliament against undemocratic steps taken by the government.

Similarly, when contacted, Leader of the Opposition in Senate Sherry Rehman said she had asked members of her party and from other opposition parties to attend the 14-day debate on the budget in the upper house of parliament.

“The government would love a walkover. But we will not give them this opportunity but will fully participate in the debate,” Ms Rehman said, declaring that each and every member on opposition benches would deliver a speech.

Ms Rehman reiterated the opposition’s viewpoint that the outgoing government had no “moral, legal or constitutional” justification to present the budget and that the PPP considered it a “pre-poll rigging”.

Sources said that the government had decided to get the budget passed by May 14 after an 11-day debate on it in the National Assembly starting from May 2.

The five-year term of the present assembly and the government ends on May 31.

Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2018