ISLAMABAD: Fulfilling a mere formality, the National Assembly on Monday began a general debate on the federal budget presented by the coalition government last week with an unimpressive speech by Leader of the Opposition and PTI dissident Raja Riaz Ahmed.
In his speech, perhaps the shortest by an opposition leader on the federal budget, Mr Ahmed gave some suggestions to the new regime for improving agriculture, industry and power sectors while hitting out at the previous government of his own party, under Imran Khan.
The opposition leader delivered his speech to an almost empty house, visibly lacking quorum, as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also skipped the sitting, despite being present in Parliament House, where he met Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who left the house after handing over chairing duties to his deputy Zahid Durrani.
Similarly, PPP chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also arrived in Parliament House, but stayed away from assembly proceedings. He left the building after having an informal chat with some reporters in one of the lobbies during which he talked about his upcoming official visit to Iran.
Opposition leader makes ‘unimpressive’ opening speech; senators pay tribute to late Dr Sikandar Mandhro
Ghaus Bux Mahar of the Grand Democratic Alliance was the only other speaker who took part in the budget debate. The MNA, who claims that his four-member GDA is a genuine opposition in the assembly, also hit out at Mr Ahmed, describing him as a friendly opposition.
“The opposition leader says he will contest the next election on the Muslim League’s ticket. What does this mean?” ask the GDA MNA, who was also a contender for the office of the opposition leader.
Both Mr Ahmed and Mr Mahar, in their speeches, urged the government to give preference to the agriculture sector and asked the rulers to take immediate steps to end the ongoing loadshedding from the country by announcing incentives for wind and solar energy gadgets.
The opposition leader took the previous PTI government to task for allegedly not setting up any power plant in the country, saying the present regime had inherited this loadshedding.
Mr Ahmed called for a complete ban on smuggled items for promotion of indigenous products. He also called for building more dams in the country and giving preference to alternative sources of power, especially wind and solar. He urged the government to devise a workable strategy for increasing country’s exports and rid the country of the clutches of International Monitory Fund.
Mr Mahar claimed that inflation had crossed 25 per cent mark and asked why the present rulers had removed the previous PTI government, if they were also to cause price hike in the country.
BJP leaders’ remarks
Before formal opening of the budget debate, Speaker Ashraf allowed the lawmakers to deliver speeches on the derogatory remarks uttered by BJP leaders against the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).
The lawmakers in their speeches termed the derogatory remarks an unfortunate incident, stating that the Indian leaders had hurt the sentiments of about 1. 5 billion Muslims of the world. They asked the government to approach the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the United Nations for highlighting this important issue.
Abdul Akbar Chitrali of Jamaat-i-Islami asked the government to call back Pakistan’s high commissioner from India and expel the Indian diplomats from Pakistan.
Minister for Religious Affairs Mufti Abdul Shakoor said Pakistan would invite members from all Muslims countries in the month of Rabiul Awwal to discuss and devise a strategy to prevent such incidents in future. He asked the prime minister to raise this issue in the UN General Assembly.
The National Assembly will meet again on Tuesday (today) at 4pm.
Senators pay tribute to Dr Mandhro
Senators on Monday paid tribute to former PPP leader Dr Sikandar Mandhro who passed away on Saturday. It was a private members’ day and the house did not take up the routine business and senators from across the aisle eulogised services of Dr Mandhro both as a politician and a medical practitioner.
The house also unanimously adopted a resolution expressing its profound grief and sorrow over the death of one of its most acclaimed members.
Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2022