NA opposition leader assails budget’s ‘economic terrorism’ as debate opens on finance bill

Published June 20, 2024
Leader of the Opposition Omar Ayub speaks in the National Assembly on Thursday. — DawnNewsTV
Leader of the Opposition Omar Ayub speaks in the National Assembly on Thursday. — DawnNewsTV

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly (NA) Omar Ayub on Thursday assailed the budget presented for fiscal year (FY) 2025 as “economic terrorism” against the people as debate opened on the finance bill.

Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb presented his first federal budget with a total outlay of Rs18.9 trillion last week. The budget for the upcoming year aims for a modest 3.6 per cent GDP growth, and sets an ambitious Rs13tr tax collection target, raising taxes on salaried classes and removing tax exemptions for the rest.

Debate on the budget formally opened today in the NA after the Eidul Azha holidays with its passage planned for June 24. Ayub opened the debate with vociferous criticism of the budget.

His speech was muted several times as he lamented the alleged interference of the establishment.

“This budget is the story that began with vote ko izzat do (respect the vote) and ended with boot ko izzat do (respect the boot),” Ayub said while criticising the government.

“The budget is a fraud with the people. This is a highway robbery against the people of Pakistan. This budget in actuality is economic terrorism against the people and the future of the country,” he added.

Ayub alleged that the budget was made with the help of “economic hitmen who want to shake the foundation of this country”.

He further claimed that these same “economic hitmen” were also involved in the PTI’s ouster from power in April 2022.

Ayub said investors would not trust the economy to invest in a country where there was “no rule of law”, adding that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had clearly instructed the government to talk to other stakeholders.

“The finance minister is a very professional man but his wings were clipped,” Ayub said, alleging that the government was trying to undermine Aurangzeb such as removing him from the chairmanship of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec).

“Aurangzeb sahib’s heart must have sunk,” he said. “The Ecnec chairmanship was taken away by the prime minister and his wingman […] entered and his name is Senator Ishaq Dar. Family concern, family business, private limited,” Ayub added.

“Aurangzeb is smiling right now but he must be thinking that I will talk to Omar Ayub later because I have said the right things.”

“If you look at the people who Aurangzeb is associated with, if you look at their biography, each one of them is a known gangster,” he said.

The word gangster was expunged by NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq.

The opposition leader also questioned whether the members of the PPP owned the budget.

“Would you vote for it with the government or not,” he said, adding that only a few people from the PPP participated in the budget presentation.

“And if they are not with them then the government would be slaughtered. They do not have it in them to run the government,” he said.

“The budget won’t be passed. An illegal, anti-people budget cannot work.”

He also said that the federal government had failed to impose taxes on the elite it promised in the previous budget.

“The biggest element of tax is income tax where they underperformed. They are unable to put weight on the elite,” he said.

Ayub added that everyone was saying the budget was “a constrained budget under the long shadow of IMF stipulations,” adding that the government did not put any room to manoeuvre for itself.

“They dug a grave for themselves, laid in it by themselves and are now asking to be saved,” he said, adding that only PTI founder Imran Khan could save the economy.

He said the nation stood behind the former premier and would go through hard times for him, however, the same could not be said for the current government.

The opposition also harshly came down on Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal’s comments about the government intending to keep Imran in jail for its five-year term till 2029, warning that there would be a “reaction” to the remarks.

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