ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) continues to maintain its numerical strength in the National Assembly after 10 months in power, as the lower house of parliament on Wednesday conveniently rejected the cut motions of the opposition parties with their main leadership preferring the multi-party conference to the crucial vote.
While Prime Minister Imran Khan attended the sitting for some time, he left the house after realising that his presence might not be necessary to ensure the presence of the treasury members. This later proved to be true when the government defeated the opposition by rejecting their more than 100 cut motions on the allocations for Cabinet Division with a 160-126 vote.
Later, the house rejected all remaining cut motions through voice vote and approved 92 Demands of Grants presented by Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar for various institutions, divisions and ministries.
Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif, who had directed his party legislators to ensure their presence in the National Assembly during the vote on the cut motions, did not turn up. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari left the house shortly after making a brief speech in which he once again asked the speaker to issue production orders of the two arrested lawmakers from Waziristan.
Opposition’s cut motions rejected by a 160-126 vote as their main leaders skip proceedings; National Assembly to form special committee on Balochistan
Several key leaders of the opposition, including Asif Zardari, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Ayaz Sadiq, were not present in the house when PPP’s Khurshid Shah demanded a headcount while challenging the speaker’s ruling of rejecting their cut motions on allocations for the cabinet division.
The speaker announced the result of the vote amidst loud desk-thumping and sloganeering by the treasury members.
Perhaps under a strategy, the demand for issuance of the production order of the two arrested MNAs from the tribal areas was later made almost by all the opposition members while speaking in support of their cut motions.
The Blaochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal) members also favoured the government during the vote on the cut motions after PM Khan and their party chief Akhtar Mengal agreed on the formation of a special committee to look into the grievances of the people of Balochistan.
The motion authorising the speaker to constitute the committee was later moved by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan and it was unanimously approved by the house minutes before adjournment of the sitting till Thursday morning (today).
Speaker Asad Qaiser will head the committee which will have representation of all the parliamentary parties. The members will be named later.
While thanking the house and the speaker over the move, Mr Mengal said the committee should be tasked to complete its findings within two months. He demanded the committee find causes of the sense of deprivation among the people of Balochistan and fix responsibility for the state of affairs in the province. He said the committee should find out whether the establishment or the nationalists were responsible for it.
Earlier, the house had already approved 22 demands for grants worth Rs43.47 trillion as charged expenditure for the financial year 2019-20 amid criticism from the opposition members over the big size of the cabinet and spending heavy amount on the protocols of the prime minister and other cabinet members.
PPP lawmaker Abdul Qadir Patel said the prime minister boasted about austerity despite having an army of ministers, advisers, special assistants and spokespersons who all were enjoying protocols.
PML-N legislator Khurram Dastagir said unelected people had been imposed on the cabinet.
Former foreign minister in the PPP’s regime Hina Rabbani Khar alleged that the prime minister had damaged the credibility of the nation by frequently making false statements.
PML-N lawmaker Ayesha Ghaus Pasha said the government while taking credit for launching social protection programme was making people jobless and pushing millions of people below the poverty line.
PPP legislator Shamim Ara Panhwar said Mr Khan had stated that he would use bicycle but he was often seen flying in helicopter. She also asked, “Who is bearing the expense of the hundreds of personnel deployed around Banigala residence of the PM?”
Winding up the debate, the minister for parliamentary affairs rejected the allegations regarding increase in government expenditures, and claimed they had saved 32 per cent of allocated Rs986m for the PM Office.
Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2019