ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the Senate on Friday set a new precedence by calling into question the yet-to-be-presented federal budget for the next fiscal year.
Speaking about the budget, former Senate chairman and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stalwart Mian Raza Rabbani expressed alarm over changes in the financial team at a time when the budget was just around the corner.
He said the budget is likely to be presented on June 11 and weeks before it, the finance minister had been replaced. Likewise, he added, the finance secretary had also been changed.
He said that means a totally new finance team is in place. “These steps clearly indicate that budget-making exercise has not been carried out in the finance ministry. The ministry has been given a ready-made budget by the IMF,” he remarked.
“This is an IMF budget and the government is just going to implement it,” Mr Rabbani alleged.
PTI senator defends changes in financial team; PML-N lawmaker says establishment had no role in 1998 nuclear tests
He termed the coming budget anti-people and said aspirations of the masses had not been kept in view while preparing it. “We are not ready to accept such a budget,” he declared.
Leader of the House in the Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem in his response said that the objection was unfounded. He said it was the prerogative of the prime minister to change his team. He said macroeconomic indicators clearly reflect the success of the government’s economic policies.
He said the budget is yet to be announced and it was unfair to dub it anti-people at this stage on the basis of assumptions. “This mindset shows you cannot go beyond point scoring,” he remarked.
The leader of the house said it was not for the first time that the government had gone to the IMF. The present government has a target of transforming the economy to a level where the IMF support is not required at all.
He advised the opposition to desist from creating issues out of non-issues. He assured the house that the positive suggestions for the budget will be incorporated.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker Mushahid Hussain Sayed, while speaking on a point of public importance, said the military establishment had no role to play in the decision to carry out nuclear test 23 years ago.
He said that while then army chief General Jehangir Karamat asked the civilian government to decide the matter, the then Naval chief suggested against conducting nuclear test. He said the then air chief said Pakistan must go for nuclear test.
He said then US president Bill Clinton called then prime minister Nawaz Sharif to exercise restraint and offered five billion US dollars if no nuclear test is carried out, but Mr Sharif did not succumb to any pressure.
He said the nuclear programme was in fact the vision of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The controversy over alleged unfair water distribution of water among the provinces echoed in the house for the second consecutive day.
PPP Senator from Sindh Moula Bux Chandio objected to the speech of PTI legislator Ejaz Chaudhry, who tried to justify opening of TP-link canal, saying that it was right of Punjab under the 1991 water accord to divert water out of its share anywhere.
Senator Ejaz also said the losses being shown by Sindh were incorrect. He proposed formation of a committee consisting of representatives from Punjab, Sindh and even from two other provinces and a member of the Senate to look into the allegations levelled by Sindh against Punjab and how much water was coming to Punjab and then going out of it.
He blamed the previous governments, both democratic and dictatorial rules, for not building water reservoirs as per the accord for the last 30 years, which caused issues among the provinces after every two to three years. He pointed out that there was 67 per cent lesser water in Tarbela Dam and 83pc in Mangla Dam.
Reacting to it, Senator Chandio called for revising the water accord, saying that the accord was unacceptable.
Refusing to accept hegemony of the largest province, he stressed that Pakistan was a federation. “Federation is not the name of one province,” he remarked.
“The matter related to water is not that simple; it is very sensitive and a matter of life and death. Experts should be asked, how important it is to let a certain quantity of water falling into the sea,” he said
Mian Raza Rabbani, in response to the suggestion for setting up a committee, said the appropriate forum would be the Senate committee of the whole, where chief ministers, provincial governments’ representatives, water experts and other stakeholders would be able to participate to work out a new water accord.
Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2021