ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Wednesday rejected a cut of around Rs170 million in its budget as an unconstitutional move and urged the government to reverse the decision.
The house through a voice vote approved an amendment to the recommendations of the Senate’s finance committee on finance bill, asking the government to restore the original budget passed by the panel. The amendment was moved by chairman of the Senate’s standing committee on finance, Farooq H. Naek and was approved by the house for incorporation in the set of recommendations prepared by the committee.
The issue was first raised in the house by Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif of the MQM, who said the government had no jurisdiction to slash the budget of Senate.
Senator Javed Abbasi of PML-N termed the move an attempt against supremacy of parliament and referred to Article 81 of the constitution, which deals with expenditure charged upon federal consolidated fund. He said the article specifically mentions the administrative expenses including the renumerations of the staff of the two houses of the parliament.
Hammad says economy improved during the first nine months of outgoing fiscal
Mr Naek referred to Article 88, which reads “the expenditure of the National Assembly and the Senate within authorised appropriations shall be controlled by the National Assembly or, as the case may be, the Senate acting on the advice of its Finance Committee”.
He said the finance committee thus becomes a constitutional committee and the executive can in no way override its decisions. He said the decision to slash the Senate’s budget was in total violation of the constitution.
Mr Naek later presented before the house the report of the standing committee on the proposals for making recommendations on the Finance Bill, 2020, containing the Annual Budget Statement, which was unanimously adopted by the house.
The chairman of the Senate standing committee on law and justice, Javed Abbasi presented before the house reports of the committee on two constitution amendment bills.
One of the bills seeks to increase number of seats for Balochistan in national and provincial assemblies (Articles 51 and 106) and the other seeking an end to the presidential power to pardon sentences in Hudood and Qisas cases.
The house unanimously passed a resolution recommending that wherever the name of Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is written in educational curriculum or official documents, Khatam-un-Nabiyeen” (Last Prophet sent by Allah) would be written along with it.
Senate chairman Sadiq Sanjrani directed the secretariat to send a copy of the resolution to all the chief ministers, chief secretaries and speakers.
Federal Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar brushed aside the impression about the government’s failure on economic front being given by the opposition. On Wednesday, he told the Senate that the country’s economy showed improvement during the first nine months of the outgoing fiscal year until it faced losses due to coronavirus since March this year.
He said trade deficit had been brought down by 31 per cent in first three quarters of the fiscal year 2019-20 and fiscal deficit was brought down from 5 to 3.8pc. He said exports increased by 20pc. He said that the government had almost cleared 10 years long refund claims of worth Rs35bn of exporters.
He said that the government had not implemented 14 points out of the total 27 points of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global anti-money laundering watchdog, and majority of its action plan had been implemented. He said at a time when economies around the globe were shrinking due to COVID, the government had not only presented a tax free budget but has slashed taxes and duties.
He said that education and health budgets had been increased while Balochistan had been given the largest share in Public Sector Development Programme followed by Sindh. “The government has wasted no time in decision making to face the challenge of covid-19,” he said.
The Senate was prorogued sine die.
Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2020