ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers, while taking part in the general debate on the federal budget in the National Assembly on Thursday, stressed the need for the political parties to sign a “charter of economy” to ensure continuity of the economic policies regardless of the regime change as speakers one after the other continued to assail the previous Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government for allegedly bringing the country to the verge of bankruptcy.

Participating in the debate, Dr Fehmida Mirza of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) while declaring herself as the “lone voice” of the opposition in the house asked the government to present the draft of the Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP), at present being discussed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), before the parliament without which, she said, the ongoing debate would remain a futile exercise.

“When the IMF is yet to give us the MEFP then why are we discussing the budget here?” she asked. She said there were reports that the government now planned to put extra burden on the masses which also included Rs50 more as levy on petrol.

Dr Mirza also protested over exclusion of her party from the national security meeting held on Wednesday, in which the military leadership briefed lawmakers on the status and progress of talks with the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Fehmida protests over exclusion of her party from security briefing

“Holding a meeting with a selective group is not appropriate,” she said, while demanding a parliamentary briefing on talks with the TTP. The GDA member drew the attention of the house towards media reports which suggested that over 250,000 Afghan refugees had entered the country without registration in the recent past. She was of the view that Pakistan should provide all help to the Afghan people, but they should at least be registered, since miscreants could also take advantage of the situation.

Dr Mirza, who was also a member of the federal cabinet of former prime minister Imran Khan, said the treasury members had been criticising the economic policies of the PTI government, but the figures presented by the ministers of the present government in the Economic Survey were telling a different story.

She said the country perhaps needed a new “charter of democracy” otherwise it could face a dangerous situation.

Dr Mirza termed the assembly “dysfunctional and incomplete” without a strong and stout opposition. She said that even the standing committees of the house were incomplete and non-functional. She also criticised the role of media, alleging that it had also become a party and had started taking sides.

“I am the lone voice of opposition. I don’t know why big media houses ignore it. The media is not playing its oversight role,” she said.

Taking part in the general discussion, PPP’s Agha Rafiullah said that despite all economic and other challenges, the coalition government had decided to take charge of the government to avoid bankruptcy.

PML-N’s Dr Malik Mukhtar Ahmad and Ahmed Raza Maneka were among those who stressed the need for signing the Charter of Economy for sustainable economic growth and putting the country in the right direction.

PPP’s Mahar Irshad Ahmad demanded formation of Seraiki province.

Finance Minister Miftah Ismail is set to wind up the debate when the National Assembly meets again on Friday (today) at 10.30am.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2022

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