Smooth passage of budget: a daunting challenge for govt

Published June 5, 2019
President Dr Arif Alvi has summoned a National Assembly session on June 10 for presentation of the federal budget for the next financial year. — APP/File
President Dr Arif Alvi has summoned a National Assembly session on June 10 for presentation of the federal budget for the next financial year. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi has summoned a National Assembly session on June 10 for presentation of the federal budget for the next financial year, while opposition parties are planning a strong protest inside parliament on several issues, including non-issuance of production orders of two arrested MNAs from the country’s tribal areas and filing of references against two senior judges, making smooth presentation of its first budget a daunting challenge for the PTI-led coalition government.

The government has already announced that the budget for the fiscal year 2019-20 will be presented on June 11, though it is not yet clear who will make the budget speech after the un-ceremonial ouster of former finance minister Asad Umar from the federal cabinet.

Read: Budget for FY2019-20 to be unveiled on June 11: SAPM Awan

The National Assembly is required to approve the budget before June 30 — the last day of each financial year.

The last sitting of the assembly on May 31 had ended in a ruckus when the treasury and opposition members had come to blows after Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri refused to give floor to Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who wanted to respond to the fiery speech of Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan on the North Waziristan incident.

President summons National Assembly session on 10th for presentation of federal budget

The minister not only opposed the issuance of production orders of MNAs Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, but also called for suspension of their membership for their alleged anti-state activities.

Read: Bilawal reiterates demand for production orders for MNAs Mohsin Dawar, Ali Wazir

Mr Bhutto-Zardari had already written a letter to Speaker Asad Qaiser, urging him to immediately issue production orders of the two MNAs currently on a physical remand after a clash with security forces at a check post in North Waziristan in which three people were killed.

The PPP chairman had stated that the issuance of the production orders would provide an opportunity to the two MNAs to take the house into confidence as to what had happened to them “at the hands of law enforcement agencies” at the Kharqamar check post on May 26.

He had also stated that separately he would write another letter on the “grave political and security dimensions of the issue” which he had refrained from raising in this letter, which was only to seek issuance of production orders of the two MNAs.

Sources in the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) told Dawn that a meeting of the party’s parliamentary group under Prime Minister Imran Khan was expected to be held soon after Eid to devise a strategy for smooth presentation of the budget in the house on June 11. They said the senior party leaders like Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Minister for Professional Education Shafqat Mehmood might be asked to engage the opposition parties before presentation of the budget.

However, political analysts believe that it would be a difficult task for the senior leaders of the PTI to woo the opposition in the present circumstances as the opposition parties are already charged up due to a number of recent events, including increase in petroleum prices and the government’s decision to file references against two senior judges of the superior courts, besides the arrest of the two MNAs.

They say passage of the budget will be another challenge for the government as according to the PPP chairman, a ruling coalition partner, Balochistan National Party-Mengal, has also decided not to vote for the money bill for “non-implementation” of the six-point agreement that had been signed by the party with the PTI at the time of the BNP-M’s joining the ruling alliance.

The opposition parties are also determined to continue to stick to their demand for issuance of production orders of Mr Wazir and Mr Dawar and withdrawal of the references against the judges.

Sources in the opposition told Dawn that Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman was also planning to convene a multi-party conference of the opposition parties in the second week of June to devise a joint strategy to hold anti-government protest. They said that a number of opposition members wanted the Maulana to convene the MPC either before presentation of the budget or before June 14, the date fixed by the Supreme Judicial Council for hearing references against the judges.

The plan for convening the MPC had been announced by the opposition at an iftar-dinner hosted by Mr Bhutto-Zardari in Islamabad even before the May 26 North Waziristan incident. The iftar-dinner had also been attended by MNA Dawar and representatives of the BNP-M, a party sitting on the treasury benches as a partner of the ruling coalition.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2019

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