Barbs fly in NA as opposition rejects budget

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The NA session, which started at 11am, lasted over two hours and was adjourned till 12 noon on Monday. — APP/File
The NA session, which started at 11am, lasted over two hours and was adjourned till 12 noon on Monday. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the National Assembly on Friday rejected the federal budget 2020-21, criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan for not creating political harmony and assailed military authorities over alleged “commercial” use of cantonment lands.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader and former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf demanded an inquiry against PM Khan for not tackling the coronavirus issue properly. He urged the government to utilise all resources to combat coronavirus.

The house witnessed an exchange of harsh words between members from opposition and treasury benches when ruling Pak­i­stan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Amj­ad Ali Khan blamed previous governments of the PPP and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for what he called bringing the country to the verge of economic disaster by ample foreign debts and corruption.

The NA session, which started at 11am, lasted over two hours and was adjourned till 12 noon on Monday. The session started with Speaker Asad Qaiser in the chair and the floor was given to Ashraf to speak on the budget.

Ashraf said the attitude of the prime minister and the government was not “serious” towards addressing the Covid-19 issue and creating political harmony. He said inadequate funds had been allocated for combating coronavirus. “No other issue is important than Covid-19 at present, but the budget does not reflect this,” he added.

PML-N legislators slam ‘commercial’ use of cantonment lands

“The government has many wise people, but I don’t know who prepared the budget without realising ground realities,” he said.

Ashraf said the government had not followed guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the letters written by the world body to four provinces.

The PPP leader said the prime minister had given an unrealistic statement that “there was nothing to be worried as it (Covid-19) was just like flu”. “As a result of the PM’s statement, people did not take the virus seriously, causing hundreds of deaths. I demand a commission to launch inquiry against the prime minister,” he said.

He said due to faulty decisions of the government the country’s health system had virtually collapsed as not a single bed was available in any public and private hospital for Covid-19 patients. “Even in Islamabad no bed is available as I tried to get admitted AJK leader of the opposition Chaudhry Yas­in, who is suffering from Covid-19, but rema­ined failed for the whole day,” he added.

He said inflation had gone up to 14 per cent in the country, but the government had not raised the salary and pension of government employees in the budget.

He also demanded of the government to bring back all Pakistanis stranded in different countries on its own expenses. “PIA is charging two sides fare from overseas Pakistanis. This is not the time to earn, but to facilitate people of the country,” he added.

In a rare speech against the military establishment, PML-N leader Riaz Pirzada questioned what he called “misuse of cantonment land”.

“The land given for cantonments is being used for commercial purposes, like cinema houses, marriage halls and Defence Housing Authorities,” he added.

He accused the military authorities of “forcibly occupying” land in Bahawalpur and Cholistan and peasants of the areas were not being allowed to move there with their tractors.

“People had given their lands for cantonments and if it is not used for military purposes, the law says that the land should be returned back to their owners at the same rate which was given at the time of its purchase,” he said.

Pirzada said politicians were always blamed for problems confronting the country. “But this is not true, this is not because of politicians,” he added. “People’s leaders like Wali Khan, Attaullah Khan Mengal and Marri were criticised,” he said

He said the banned sectarian organisation Sipah-i-Sahaba was established by former ISI chief retired Maj Gen Hameed Gul and his aide Khalid Khawaja. “The group not only killed hundreds of innocent people, but their creators as well,” he added.

The opposition leader said that most of the army generals had fought for the country on borders, but unfortunately many of them had lost respect.

Talking about the budget 2020-21, he wondered why Rs80 billion had been allocated for dams when the nation was fighting the deadly coronavirus.

PTI leader Amjad Ali Khan blamed former governments of the PPP and PML-N for problems confronting the country, including the economic crunch, heavy foreign debts and corruption. “During the last 73 years previous governments brought corruption and unemployment to the country, but our government is being blamed for the crisis,” he added.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2020