Finance Minister Asad Umar on Tuesday defended the government's strategy to seek loans from multiple sources instead of asking the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to plug the entire gap in the country's financing needs.
Former speaker and PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq had recently asked the government to take the parliament into confidence over the government's recent negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China and Saudi Arabia.
The finance minister today paid a visit to the lower house, where he explained to his fellow parliamentarians that the government approached friendly countries as well as the IMF for help so as to not be dependent on any single source.
"When we went to Saudi Arabia we signed a $3 billion deal," he said. "Naveed Qamar has stayed in the IMF programme, Ishaq Dar is not here but he must also know that all the money does not come from the IMF."
Umar rejected the notion that the government's dilly-dallying on the IMF programme had caused the stock market to crash, and reminded the house that the bourse's benchmark 100 index had plummeted by 15,000 points even when the PML-N government was still in power.
"In our two months, the market went down [an overall] 4,000 points," he said. "But in the previous seven months [under the PML-N] there was a 15,000 point reduction. So this is no the first time [that the market went down]."
The finance minister claimed that the market started going down from its peak of 53,000 points when "the current account deficit started growing rapidly", which he said reflected in the market's performance.
He also pointed at the recent return of the bulls in the market, saying: "In the last 10 to 12 days, the stock market has surged 5,000 points."
Umar told his audience that "the trade deficit has increased from 4.2 per cent to 6.6 per cent," adding: "This increase has cause a loss of Rs1,000 billion"
He said that Pakistan's biggest trade deficit is with China, adding that Beijing is fully committed "to work with us on this".
PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal, to whom Umar had referred to at various points in his speech, was to deliver his rebuttal when the finance minister left the house.
At this, PPP's Khursheed Shah protested and said that the debate cannot go on in the absence of the concerned minister. He accused the federal ministers of ignoring the parliament and making it redundant.
"We did not come just to listen to the finance minister's lecture," Shah said. "If he had to leave after speaking his piece then what was the point of debating this issue? He is not giving time to an institution because of which he became the minister. The Parliament house has become a debating society."
When the session resumed following a prayer break, the opposition walked out of the parliament in protest against the finance minister's absence.
"We will not take part in debate on the economy until the finance minister comes back," Shah demanded.
With the opposition benches empty, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry took centre stage and lampooned the opposition members for walking out yet again.
The information minister accused the opposition of deliberately walking out so as to "avoid" talking on the economy which, he said, they themselves "had ruined".
Chaudhry linked the opposition walk-out with the presence of Nawaz Sharif in the Parliament House. "They wanted to have a meeting with Nawaz Sharif but he has no political role," he said.
Earlier, addressing the house, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that Saudi Arabia had not linked any conditions with the economic bailout package.
Qureshi categorically stated that Pakistan was not sending any troops to Saudi Arabia and no such condition had been attached to the money being provided by Saudi Arabia to help Pakistan.
Speaking about the alleged landing of an Israeli aircraft in Pakistan, Qureshi termed the reports "false and baseless".
Shahbaz Sharif said that the opposition accepted the explanation given by the foreign minister about the Israeli plane.
At the outset, a PPP member had pointed to the lack of quorum, forcing Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri to suspend the proceedings for nearly an hour.
Shahbaz Sharif was brought to Islamabad by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) which had arrested him earlier this month.
Shahbaz, the PML-N president and former chief minister of Punjab, has been in the custody of NAB in connection with Ashiyana housing scam since Oct 5. He was allowed to attend the National Assembly session, which commenced on Monday, after the issuance of his production order by Speaker Asad Qaiser.