ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday completed the process of approving all 131 demands for grants of various ministries and divisions worth over Rs5.53 trillion after rejecting 266 cut motions of opposition members on eight selected ministries after a debate in a non-serious environment, paving the way for the passage of the finance bill, commonly known as the federal budget, on Wednesday.
The lower house of the parliament had already approved on Monday 83 demands for grants worth Rs4.57 trillion of those 30 ministries and divisions on which the opposition parties had not moved any cut motions.
The opposition members had submitted a total of 266 cut motions demanding a symbolic cut on allocations of eight ministries, including communications, energy, foreign affairs, interior, narcotics control and railways.
In parliamentary democracy all over the world, voting on demands for grants and cut motions is considered a crucial phase of the budget session as opposition members get an opportunity to give a tough time to the government by moving cut motions on ministries and divisions.
Hina says Pakistan no longer faces ‘international isolation’; assembly set to pass budget today
At this stage, opposition gets a chance to criticise the government’s performance while seeking a symbolic deduction of Re1, Rs10 or Rs100 from the demands for grants for each division and ministry.
Traditionally, opposition members submit cut motions on key ministries, with an understanding with the government.
During the voting on cut motions, both the government and the opposition make arrangements to ensure maximum participation of their members in the house as the speaker is required to put each and every demand for grant as well as the cut motion before the members for a voice vote and a defeat to the government on a cut motion can be seen as a failure of the government to retain its majority and can even become a cause for the government’s ouster.
However, the present coalition government did not face any difficulty at this crucial stage of the budget session as there is no meaningful opposition in the house.
While speaking in support of their cut motions, the opposition members delivered rhetoric speeches, criticising the performance of various departments and institutions working under these eight ministries and divisions.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar while winding up the debate on demands for grants of her ministry refuted the impression that Pakistan had been facing international isolation and stated that the country’s foreign policy was moving in the right direction.
Responding to reports that India had obstructed Pakistan’s participation in a conference hosted by China on the sidelines of BRICS summit, Ms Khar said there was absolutely no denying of the fact that China was the most effective strategic partner of Pakistan.
“China is part of BRICS which means Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, where all the member countries have to work to cooperate with each other,” she said.
“If a certain unfriendly country wanted to block Pakistan and succeeded in doing so, then how can we doubt China’s intention,” the minister was quoted by the official Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) as saying on the floor of the assembly.
According to her, the Chinese government’s statement also came the other day, which said China wanted Pakistan to be part of this and it also recognised Pakistan’s role in global development.
“We don’t have a role (in BRICS) but we still have core roles in many other international forums such as heart of Asia,” she added.
Responding to criticism by Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali over the government’s handling of Dr Afia Siddiqui case, the minister said Pakistan was contesting it at every level. But obviously, she said, every country had its own laws, rules and regulations besides its sovereign right.
“India today is not a secular state, it has become a rogue state,” said Ms Khar while talking about India’s role in occupied Jammu and Kashmir in the context of the conviction of Kashmiri leader Yaseen Malik.
Minister for Narcotics Control Shah Zain Bugti in his winding up speech during the debate on the cut motions related to his ministry asked Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to allow recruitment of about 10,000 personnel from across the country to combat the menace of drugs. At present, he said, the total strength of the ministry was only 3,600 and they were performing duties at airports, ports and border areas.
He said the ministry was in contact with provinces for doing legislation to prevent use of drugs in educational institutions, proposing heavy fines on educational institutions where drugs were found to be sold.
Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2022