ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Thursday announced a tentative plan to present the country’s budget for the next fiscal year on June 12 as National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, using his special powers, “appointed” three sta­nding committees on an interim basis to get approval of pending bills.

According to an official anno­u­n­cement by the National Assembly Secretariat, the speaker appointed these standing committees using his powers under Rule 215 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007.

The committees, comprising only five members, mostly from the tre­a­­­sury benches, also held their mee­tings on Thursday and approved various bills that had been laid before the National Assembly during its recent sessions.

It was due to lack of understanding and some differences that the government and the opposition have so far failed to agree on the composition and the chairmanship of the committees, even more than three months after the election of Sheh­baz Sharif as the prime minister.

NA speaker forms three interim committees to get approval for pending bills

Under the rules, the committees are required to be formed within 30 days after the prime minister’s election.

Budget session plan

The announcement regarding the formation of the interim committees came after the speaker presided over a consultative meeting of the parliamentary leaders to discuss the schedule of the budget session that has already begun on Thursday.

According to an official announcement, the members of the treasury and the opposition members agreed that soon after presentation of the budget, the NA would go on a week-long recess due to Eidul Azha.

A general debate on the budget would start on June 20 which would continue till 24th. The members will take part in the debate and voting on cut motions on June 26 and 27 whereas the budget will be passed on June 28.

The announcement says that this plan is not final and there can be changes in it according to the situation.

The meeting was attended by Deputy Speaker Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry and Hafeezur Rehman of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Syed Naveed Qamar and Ijaz Jakhrani of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Aamir Dogar and Ali Muhammad Khan of the Sunni Ittehda Council (SIC), Aminul Haq of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Noor Alam Khan and Shahida Akhtar of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and Khalid Magsi of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP).

According to sources, the critical National Economic Council (NEC) meeting, essential for reviewing the current year’s macroeconomic situation and development programme and approving the next year’s economic and development agenda, has yet to be scheduled and the government has yet to constitute the National Economic Council.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb are currently on a visit to China and thus unavailable to lead key consultations until Saturday which could be the first available date for an NEC meeting, provided the relevant documentation with provinces, the prime minister and the president are circulated through electronic means for constituting and notifying the NEC.

Standing committees

Meanwhile, due to a delay in the process of the formation of the standing committees and amid criticism by the members from the treasury as well as the opposition, the speaker formed the committees on information and broadcasting, maritime affairs and communications, but only to approve some bills based on the already promulgated ordinances which were laid before the assembly by the government amid opposition’s criticism.

The meeting of the standing committee on information and broadcasting was presided over by PPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar whereas PML-N’s Bilal Azhar Kiyani and MQM’s Aminul Haq presided over the meetings of the committees on maritime affairs and communications, respectively.

These chairmen later attended the meetings of the other two committees as members with JUI-F’s Noor Alam Khan and Awn Saqlain of the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party.

The bills passed by these commi­ttees were the Pakistan Broad­cas­t­ing Corp­o­ration (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the Pakistan National Ship­ping Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the Pakistan Postal Services Management Board (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the National Highway Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2024

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