ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser has decided to consult parliamentary leaders of all political parties in the National Assembly on presentation and passage of the federal budget for the next fiscal.
In a statement issued by the National Assembly Secretariat here on Sunday, the speaker said the federal budget for the fiscal 2020-21 was scheduled to be presented in June, therefore, he felt necessary to take political parties into confidence in wake of the situation prevailing in the country due to outspread of coronavirus (Covid-19).
The speaker said his consultations would be on the modus operandi for discharge of an important constitutional obligation of the government and the parliament as it was incumbent upon the government to timely present the budget and its passage by the parliament.
Meetings of parliamentary committees to be held through video link
Mr Qaiser said the pandemic had not only affected livelihood of the people but had also cast devastating effects on the economy of the country. He was confident that the government would offer more incentives to the economic and industrial sectors for stabilising the national economy.
The speaker said the country was still under the threat of the pandemic and it was the need of the hour to demonstrate national cohesion at political and public level to deal with the present crisis.
Mr Qaiser said the parliament was mindful of its responsibilities and would play its role for providing relief to the people. He said parliamentary business was being reactivated through parliamentary committees and arrangements were being made to hold meetings of the committees through video conference.
It was almost one month after his decision to cancel meetings of the National Assembly committees and amid criticism from opposition parties and other sections of the society for making parliament redundant during the coronavirus crisis that the speaker on Saturday issued directives to the NA Secretariat staff to make arrangements for holding meetings of committees through video conferencing.
According to a spokesman for the NA Secretariat, the speaker’s decision was aimed at initially making the non-legislative business of the National Assembly functional. This decision would facilitate the standing committees, Public Accounts Committee and special committees to hold meetings through video conferencing.
Mr Qaiser had cancelled meetings of the house committees till further order on March 14 as part of the measures taken by the government to fight Covid-19. The directives to cancel the meetings had been issued a day after the first meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan, which had taken a number of decisions, including closure of educational institutions and bar on all kinds of public gatherings.
Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani had cancelled meetings of all standing and functional committees of upper house even before the NSC meeting.
The speaker’s decision had affected the meetings of 25 committees that were scheduled be held from March 16 to 31. Similarly, the Senate chairman had cancelled meetings of 18 committees which were scheduled to be held between March 16 and 26. The financial year in the country starts from July 1 every year and the National Assembly is required to approve the budget in the form of a monetary bill before June 30.
This will be the second full-fledged budget to be presented by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government which came into power in August 2018.
Last year, it was amid a noisy opposition protest and scuffles that the then minister of state for revenue Hammad Azhar had presented the first full-fledged budget of the PTI-led coalition in both houses of the Parliament on June 11.
Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2020