NA approves 42 demands for grants relating to various divisions

Updated June 27, 2019

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Leader of Opposition in the NA Shehbaz Sharif called Prime Minister Imran Khan a "selected prime minister". — DawnNewsTV
Leader of Opposition in the NA Shehbaz Sharif called Prime Minister Imran Khan a "selected prime minister". — DawnNewsTV

The National Assembly approved 42 demands for grants relating to various divisions, rejecting all cut motions moved by the opposition through majority vote during the budget session on Thursday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif also participated in the voting process.

Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar had presented Demands of Grants for various institutions, divisions and ministries, while opposition parties had moved cut motions.

In all, the House rejected at least 323 cut motions and accepted Demands of Grants worth Rs227.15 billion and Rs25.62bn presented by the Power Division and the Petroleum Division respectively.

On the other hand, the assembly approved the defence budget worth Rs1.163 trillion without any hurdle as the opposition didn't move any cut motion against the demand.

Earlier in the day, a ruckus erupted in the assembly after Leader of Opposition in the NA Shehbaz Sharif called Prime Minister Imran Khan a "selected prime minister" while criticising the latest spree of inflation. The speaker expunged the word selected from the proceedings but Sharif again used the word while criticising the government over the recent unprecedented devaluation of rupee against the dollar.

The opposition leader challenged Omar Ayub Khan's statement that the PML-N had abandoned renewable energy projects to accommodate expensive LNG plants.

Omar Ayub had said that the PTI government had paid Rs100 million electricity bill of the Prime Minister House for the last five year period of the PML-N government.

"We are paying for the wrong policies of the previous governments. The increase in the prices of gas and electricity is because of the policies of the previous governments," he claimed.

Talking about the electricity sector, he said there was an extra burden of Rs200 billion on the kitty due to the capacity charges. "We have decided not to renew the agreements with independent power producers (IPPs) after their expiry."

Criticising the previous regimes, he said, "We are clearing the landmines laid by previous governments. Previous governments didn't take action against power thieves in the last year to win elections. We registered 30,000 FIRs against power theft and took action against 500 officials of the department who were also involved in it."

He added that the previous government had blocked 250 renewable energy projects, which the incumbent regime had revived.

Asad Qaiser directed the media to avoid reporting the expunged words from the proceedings.

PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also criticised the government for what he called an unprecedented increase in gas prices. He rejected the accusation that the PML-N was responsible for inflation, saying: "We didn't increase gas prices during our government."

He claimed that there was surplus electricity and gas in the country when the PML-N's tenure had ended.

"The main issue is power losses. We have heard that the government wants to shift the head office to Islamabad. Such administrative measures will not resolve the problems."

PPP's Abdul Qadir Patel also lambasted the PTI-led government for tariff hikes. He said that the Ministry of Energy should be renamed as the Ministry of Price Hikes.

"This PTIMF budget has made the life of people more miserable," he said.

Speaking about the cut motions being moved in the House, senior PML-N leader Khawaja Asif opposed the capacity payment clause in the renewal agreements with independent power producers IPPs. "We are paying them a huge amount on account of this without getting electricity. The contracts of most of the IPPs [which were] signed in 1990s, are about to expire in the next six to seven years. Exclude this capacity clause from the pacts," he suggested.

PPP's Syed Naveed Qamar also demanded the production orders of the two arrested MNAs from Waziristan — Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar. He said that the presence of the two arrest lawmakers would provide legitimacy to the budget.

Quoting a Dawn report about the approval of 291 per cent increase in gas price, he said that it would be translating into three times rise. He added that the former finance minister, Asad Umar, had granted concessions to the export sector but the incumbent regime withdrew the concessions.

"Electricity prices have also been increased. Does the government want to shut industries?" he asked.

Barjees Tahir of the PML-N also asked the speaker to issue production orders for Dawar and Wazir. He credited former premier Nawaz Sharif for ending loadshedding in the country.