ISLAMABAD: The government on Wednesday opposed a proposed amendment to the parliamentarians’ salaries and allowances act.

But the belated opposition of the bill by the government came only after the Senate through a voice vote had already adopted Senate Finance Committee report clearing the bill which if passed would make 25 business class domestic air tickets given to all parliamentarians each year transferable to their family members.

The report of the committee was presented in the House and a motion seeking its adoption was moved by Senator Atiq Sheikh ofthe MQM on behalf of committee’s chairman Farooq Naek, who belongs to the PPP.

Soon after adoption of the report, Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar said the parliamentarians got travel vouchers worth Rs300,000 per annum for them and their family members.

He said in addition they got 25 business class tickets which they wanted to be made transferable to their family members, which would be wrong in principle.

Senator Javed Abbasi of the PML-N termed it height of duplicity on the part of the government, pointing out that the government itself had introduced the bill in the House. He said the government also had the opportunity to withdraw it when the bill was being considered by the committee, adding that bill’s opposition at this stage was merely meant for media publicity.

Later, taking part in the budget debate, Javed Abbasi lambasted the government for “economic mismanagement” and said it was acting contrary to the claims made by the party before coming into power.

He said the government had set a new record of external borrowings taking the debts from Rs30,000bn to Rs42,000bn within two years.

“None of the previous governments had taken so much loan in two years”, he remarked.

He said the previous PPP and the PML-N governments used to borrow Rs5bn and Rs8bn per day on average while the present government which had promised to break the begging bowl was lending money at a record high pace of Rs18bn per day.

Mr Abbasi said at least three mega scams had emeged during PTI days in power - the one involving 400 per cent hike in prices of medicines, and the others were sugar and wheat flour crisis. He regretted that no action had yet been taken against those responsible even after inquiry commission’s reports on sugar and wheat flour scams.

Senator Abbasi was on his legs when the House was informed that the FBR chairperson with a three-member team was present in the galleries.

Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani had issued directions to the FBR chairperson and officials to ensure their presence during the debate when federal Minister for Narcotics Control Azam Swati on Monday pointed out their absence after declaring the FBR as the most corrupt government department.

JUI-F’s Moulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said the economic wheel of the country was at standstill and the government was now trying to hide behind the Covid-19 pandemic, adding that the government had lost confidence of the people.

PPP’s Sassui Palejo alleged that Sindh had been pushed to the wall in the proposed budget as the provincial government’s recommendations about small dams had been ignored in it.

Senator Aurangzeb Khan from erstwhile Fata termed the budget as the best document in the given difficult situation due to Covid-19. He advised the opposition to avoid unnecessary criticism and doing politics on the pandemic.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2020