Lawmakers address ‘empty seats’ on 2nd day of budget debate

Published June 15, 2022
The National Assembly of Pakistan. — NA/Twitter
The National Assembly of Pakistan. — NA/Twitter

ISLAMABAD: Lack of interest by lawmakers on Tuesday marred the National Assembly’s proceedings as only four lawmakers took part in the general discussion on the federal budget on the second day as Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf could not run the house even for two hours despite giving free time to members to deliver speeches.

Like the opening day of budget debate, most lawmakers made speeches to empty treasury benches, prompting PTI dissident from Peshawar Noor Alam Khan to protest the absence of both Finance Minister Miftah Ismail and Minister of State Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha.

The PTI MNA said the opposition was not pointing out lack of quorum, but the government should show some seriousness and at least there should be someone from the ministry to take notes of the speeches being made by the lawmakers.

The speaker was confronted by Mr Khan when, instead of issuing any directive, he tried to defend the absent ministers by stating that it was a collective responsibility of the cabinet members to respond to the points being raised by the members and that some ministers were present.

Noor Alam protests ministers’ absence; speaker continues proceedings without quorum

Mr Khan, however, said it was not an ordinary session and if the finance minister did not have time to listen to the budget speeches, then who would give importance to the session.

Those who took part in the debate mostly delivered political speeches and highlighted the issues of their constituencies. As usual, the lawmakers continued PTI bashing and held former prime minister Imran Khan responsible for the present state of affairs in the country, particularly the poor economic situation.

MQM’s MNA from Hyderabad Salahuddin, whose party was part of the coalition government under the PTI, justified his party’s decision to support the vote of no confidence motion against the then prime minister, Imran Khan, stating that they had done it in the larger national interest.

Mr Salahuddin alleged that the previous PTI government lacked decision-making power, because of which the present coalition government had now been forced to take “difficult decisions” in an effort to save the country from the economic mess.

The MNA was of the view that it was the MQM and the ruling PML-N which would have to pay a heavy political price for their decisions to increase the prices of oil, electricity and gas due to the agreement signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by the previous government.

Without naming Imran Khan, the MQM MNA said the head of the previous government had no vision and no experience to deal with the economic situation. He also lashed out at the PTI government for agreeing on tough conditions of the IMF and then violating the agreement by continuing with the subsidy on petroleum products.

“When an inexperienced driver drives the car, it will certainly meet an accident,” he said in an apparent reference to the former prime minister.

Mr Salahuddin warned the government against street agitation if it failed to control the ongoing loadshedding in the country, stating that the PTI could take advantage of such a situation.

PML-N leader and Federal Minister Mian Javed Latif expressed his surprise over the recent statements of Imran Khan in which he had stated that the country was heading towards a Sri Lanka-like situation. The minister questioned as to what action the present government had taken in 30 days which could make Pakistan bankrupt and which no government had taken in the last 74 years. He said it was extremely regrettable that Imran Khan recently talked about the country’s disintegration and uttered negative remarks regarding the nuclear programme and armed forces.

Earlier, resuming the debate, Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali of the Jamaat-i-Islami called for introducing interest-free economy in line with the teachings of Islam as well as the Constitution. He called for allocating funds for the Madaris and regretted that the government had provided tax exemptions to film industry, but not to the mosques and Madaris.

Lashing out at the government’s economic policies, Maulana Chitrali warned that the country could see a rise in the crimes in the wake of inflation and unemployment.

The National Assembly will meet again at 11am on Wednesday (today).

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2022

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