ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Dr Fehmida Mirza on Tuesday in the presence of former president Asif Ali Zardari lashed out at the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for its alleged failure to implement the 18th Amendment in the party-ruled Sindh province as the treasury and opposition members accused each other of backtracking from their earlier commitments on agreeing on a charter of economy (CoE).
Taking part in the general debate on the federal budget in the National Assembly, Dr Mirza, who had previously served as speaker of the house during the PPP government from 2008 to 2013, said the purpose of the 18th Amendment was to restore the 1973 Constitution to its original position and to end the sense of deprivation among smaller provinces, but regretfully they had failed to achieve both objectives.
In February, the National Assembly had witnessed a rumpus due to a noisy protest by the PPP members when Dr Mirza, the spouse of Dr Zulfiqar Mirza who was once a close confidant of Mr Zardari, had made similar allegations against the Sindh government and named the former president and his sister Faryal Talpur in a fiery speech. However, this time she did not name any one and PPP members remained peaceful and listened to her silently.
PML-N asks PTI govt to create consensus on budget as the first step towards charter of economy
Mr Zardari left the hall when the former speaker was still speaking and no PPP member responded to her on the floor. Later, party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari spoke about her during a media talk outside the Parliament House and former Senate chairman Raza Rabbani who was chairman of the parliamentary committee that had drafted the 18th Amendment in a statement criticised her for taking credit for the amendment passed by the assembly in 2010.
Dr Mirza, who has been elected on a general seat from Badin from the platform of anti-PPP Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), had recalled how much struggle she had made as speaker while constituting the parliamentary committee to draft the 18th Amendment. She regretted that the PPP always talked in support of this amendment and alleged the amendment was being rolled back, but it did nothing for its implementation in Sindh.
The minister said the provinces’ share in the National Finance Commission (NFC) had been increased and it was the responsibility of the provincial governments to spend this amount on the development of backward areas. She alleged that despite devolution, there had been no improvement in education, agriculture, health and tourism sectors in Sindh.
She said Sindh got Rs616 billion this year under the NFC award and all the provinces must be held accountable over the utilisation of the funds. She said the PPP and the PML-N talked about the Charter of Democracy (CoD) but the PPP was not ready to appoint the opposition leader as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Sindh Assembly. “This should be called charter of hypocrisy,” she said.
Charter of Economy
Taking part in the debate, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif had offered the government to go for a Charter of Economy (CoE). “However, after a news conference in Lahore, they withdrew the offer,” he said in his apparent reference to the presser of PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz, who had termed the CoE a “joke with the economy”.
Responding to Mr Chaudhry, PML-N stalwart Khawaja Asif explained that in principle his party did not disagree with the proposal to sign a CoE and believed that the economy should be above politics, but regretted that the government had not consulted them before the “anti-people and anti-business budget”.
He said they were calling the CoE a joke due to the prevailing situation in the country. He said both treasury and opposition members had divergent views on the budget, saying if the government was serious about CoE proposal, then it should start the process by developing a consensus on the present budget.
Another PML-N MNA, Khawaja Saad Rafique, who was speaking in the ongoing session for the first time since his production order was issued, said before signing a new charter, the CoD, signed between the PPP and the PML-N should be extended to all the parties.
“You cannot ask us to sign a charter with our hands on the neck,” he said while criticising the government for its alleged policy of political victimisation of the opponents.
Mr Rafique said he had been in the custody of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) but he had not been charge-sheeted yet regarding the alleged corruption as minister for railways. Terming NAB as a product of a black law, he said the bureau had become a Gestapo, a reference to the Nazi’s secret police.
Dr Mazari on FATF
Earlier, Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari called for a parliamentary probe into “criminal negligence of the past governments and bureaucrats” for not taking steps to make Pakistan a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Dr Mazari said the financial watchdog was established in 1989 to act against money laundering and presently it had 39 members, including Saudi Arabia. She said the issue of terrorism was made part of the FATF lately.
“India became its [FATF] member in 1998 after the constitution of Framework of Monitoring Unit (FMU). Since then, India is creating problems for us every now and then,” she said.
The minister regretted that Pakistan had constituted FMU in 2008, but no effort was made to make the country an FATF member.
“Parliament should conduct an investigation against specific members of bureaucracy, foreign ministry and institutional heads [of previous governments] for not applying for the membership of FATF.”
She alleged that previous governments did not apply for FATF membership because it would have “exposed their own money laundering and corruption”.
Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2019