ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly and the Senate are set to begin a general debate on the federal budget for the year 2020-21 on Monday (today).
Parliamentary leader of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Khawaja Asif is expected to open the debate in the National Assembly in the absence of party president and Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif, whereas in the Senate Opposition Leader Raja Zafarul Haq will do the same.
Informed sources told Dawn that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was also expected to speak on the budget on Monday, when the National Assembly would meet after a two-day recess.
Both the PPP and the PML-N have rejected the budget, terming it “anti-people and anti-Pakistan”. The PPP has already announced that it will “vehemently oppose” the federal budget in parliament and participate in every protest to be organised against it in the country by any union or association.
PML-N, PPP won’t press for voting on cut motions
Mr Bhutto-Zardari presided over a meeting of the party’s parliamentarians on Saturday to discuss the budget for 2020-21 and formulating the strategy for the ongoing sessions of the National Assembly and the Senate.
Addressing party members, the PPP chairman had termed it a “PTIMF” budget, stating that it would be a “tsunami” for the country’s economy, and agriculture and health sectors, which might unleash a wave of poverty and create famine-like conditions in the country if not resisted by the entire nation.
The PPP and the PML-N have already reached an understanding with the government that they would not press for voting on cut motions and they would not point out quorum till the passage of the budget by June 30.
The opposition parties have also agreed that a maximum of 86 members (one-fourth of the total 342 members; 46 from the treasury and 40 from the opposition) will be present in the house at one time to ensure compliance with the social distancing policy triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), the smaller opposition party, however, rejected the agreement, terming it “unconstitutional and illegal” and said all their members would attend the sittings.
In parliamentary democracy all over the world, the presentation of the budget and voting on symbolic cut motions are considered to be the most important business of parliament and opposition parties give a tough time to governments through presentation of cut motions. That’s why the governments have to ensure presence of their maximum members during the budget session.
Parliamentary experts say a defeat to the government on a cut motion can be seen as a failure of the government to retain its majority and can even lead to the ouster of the government.
However, a PPP leader on Sunday dispelled the impression that the opposition had reached any understanding with the government to allow the smooth passage of the budget.
The PPP leader claimed that voting on cut motions was usually of no use and the actual voting would be on demands for grants and the finance bill and the opposition would not provide any walkover to the government on these two issues.
Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2020