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NA to start debate on budget today

Updated June 17, 2019

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With the new financial year beginning after two weeks, the National Assembly is yet to start a general debate on the federal budget presented by the government on June 11. — APP/File
With the new financial year beginning after two weeks, the National Assembly is yet to start a general debate on the federal budget presented by the government on June 11. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: With the new financial year beginning after two weeks, the National Assembly is yet to start a general debate on the federal budget presented by the government on June 11.

As per the parliamentary tradition, the opposition leader starts a general discussion on the federal budget every year, but this time the treasury members belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) did not allow Leader of the Opposition and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif last week to make a speech by constantly creating disturbances as part of their strategy to avenge the opposition’s noisy protest in the house during the budget speech in the presence of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Read: NA session adjourned as chaos prevents budget debate from progressing

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, who was among the members who created rumpus and prevented Mr Sharif from speaking on the floor of the house, expressed the hope that the National Assembly would begin the debate on the budget on Monday, as they had “already achieved their purpose” by not allowing Mr Sharif to speak for one full day.

Imran, Shahbaz convene meetings of parliamentary groups; PPP dubs speaker ‘rubber stamp’

Talking to Dawn, Mr Chaudhry admitted that it was a planned move by the treasury benches to prevent Mr Sharif from delivering his speech to give a befitting reply to the opposition that had created a ruckus in the house at the time of the presentation of the budget.

He claimed that Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted to regularly attend the sitting and speak on national issues on the floor of the house, but the behaviour of the opposition always remained inappropriate whenever the prime minister came to the assembly.

Mr Chaudhry said the prime minister had convened a meeting of the parliamentary group to devise a final strategy for the budget session before the Monday sitting.

Asked why the government had disrupted its own budget session, the minister said the “opposition itself was not very much keen” in having a serious discussion on the national issues in parliament. He recalled that the government had constituted a commission to probe the charges of rigged elections levelled by the opposition, but the latter did not show any interest in it. Also, he said, the government had formed the panel to discuss amendments to the accountability laws, but again the opposition parties did not show any interest.

To deal with possible interruptions by the treasury members during the budget debate, the PML-N president has also convened a meeting of party legislators on Monday (today) to devise a strategy for the budget session.

When contacted, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb alleged that the government did not want a debate on the budget as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had made its passage without any change, a condition for the bailout package for Pakistan.

It had never happened in the country’s parliamentary history that the government itself created hurdles in debate on budget, she said.

Answering a question, she said the opposition would not boycott the budget debate and would not run away from parliament as desired by the government, which wanted to “bulldoze” the budget.

Ms Aurangzeb, who had served as information minister in the previous PML-N government, said the opposition would make every effort to block the passage of this “anti-people budget” from the assembly.

Meanwhile, the other opposition party Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is also planning to lodge its protest over non-issuance of the production orders for their several legislators, including former president Asif Ali Zardari, who had been arrested recently.

In a statement issued on Sunday, PPP central information secretary Nafeesa Shah said it was the constitutional and legal duty of the speaker to ensure Mr Zardari’s presence in the assembly.

“Regretfully, the speaker has failed to play the role of the custodian of the house,” she said, dubbing the speaker a “rubber stamp”.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2019