PM Shehbaz has lost popular support, PPP MNAs claim

Published June 25, 2024
PPP MNAs (left to right) Ali Musa Gilani, Nabil Gabol and Shagufta Jumani speak in the National Assembly on June 24. — NA/X
PPP MNAs (left to right) Ali Musa Gilani, Nabil Gabol and Shagufta Jumani speak in the National Assembly on June 24. — NA/X

• Govt members question finance minister’s credentials
• Demand for south Punjab, Bahawalpur provinces echoes again
• PPP, MQM-P accused of having double standards

ISLAMABAD: Lawma­k­ers belonging to the PPP, a key partner in the ruling coalition, during their speeches in the National Assembly on Monday not only made a scathing attack on the tax-laden and ‘dir­e­ctionless’ federal budget, but also targeted the ruling PML-N, claiming that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had lost popularity among the masses.

Despite expressing serious reservations over the budget, the PPP members, who had initially boycotted the ongoing debate and sta­rted taking part in it only after a high-level intervention at the top leadership level, however, expressed their helplessness, stating that ultimately they would have no choice, but to vote for the budget.

During the day-long proceedings, the lawmakers from smaller provinces highlighted the sense of deprivation prevailing in their areas, as MNAs from south Punjab called for carving out new provinces from Punjab.

The PPP members also lashed out at the PML-N government for shutting down the secretariat that had been set up by the PTI government for the proposed province of south Punjab.

Besides the PPP, members of the MQM-P, an­other ruling coalition partner, also expressed concern over the government’s move to impose taxes on the salaried and middle-class people, stating that the budget would cause more inflation in the country.

Highlighting the power outages in Karachi and other parts of Sindh despite unprecedented increase in power bills, the PPP and MQM-P members specifically targeted Karachi Electric and asked the government to revoke its licence and cancel the privatisation agreement.

A number of treasury members also questioned the credentials of Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb, calling him an ‘imported’ person having no clue about the ground realities and real issues being faced by the masses.

Political victimisation

On the other hand, the opposition members belonging to the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) continued to raise voice against their alleged political victimisation, besides demanding the release of PTI founding chairman Imran Khan from jail.

The opposition members accused the PPP and MQM-P of double standards, stating that on the one hand, they are criticising the budget and, on the other, they would vote for it.

Had the prime minister been present in the house, they would have told him that he is no longer a popular leader and his popularity has hit rock bottom, said PPP’s Abdul Qadir Gilani. “The PML-N is not a popular party of this country, but still we are supporting it in the greater national interest.”

Mr Gilani, who is the son of Senate Chairman Yousaf Raza Gilani, said they were supporting the present coalition led by the PML-N, but it did not mean that they had given it the authority to bulldoze them.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif later came to the assembly and was seen ex­changing pleasantries with his party members who greeted him. Interestingly, despite direct criticism by the PPP, no one from the PML-N responded, apparently out of political expediency.

“Do you think, we should approve this budget?” asked Mr Gilani, stating that it had nothing for the poor farmers and middle-class people. Demanding the creation of South Punjab province, he said the PML-N will have to do something out of the box.

“When will we get rid of Takht-i-Lahore?” asked Mr Gilani while lashing out at the PML-N for abolishing the south Punjab secretariat. He said the budget of Lahore city was more than the total budget estimates of three south Punjab districts — Bahawalpur, Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan.

“We do not want separation. We are demanding our right,” he said, regretting that the “rightful share” of south Punjab districts had been reduced to less than 20 per cent from the previous 35pc.

His brother and MNA Ali Musa Gilani also called for the creation of south Punjab province, saying that there was no viceroy system in the country.

PPP’s Hina Rabbani Khar endorsed the demand, stating that if the people did not get their rights, they would demand new provinces.

Malik Iqbal, a PML-N MNA from Bahawalpur, demanded the restoration of Bahawalpur state, saying “we do not want to be ruled by Takht-i-Multan”. He said the Punjab Assembly and the NA had already passed resolutions for the creation of Bahawalpur province.

PPP MNA Seher Kamran said the finance minister had presented an “imported budget” based on the “IMF’s wish-list”. She also hit out at the prime minister over his statement that he would provide relief to the people even after selling his clothes, stating: “There is a contradiction between your statements and actions.”

Another PPP MNA Nabil Gabol said that none of his party members had so far spoken in support of the budget and “we don’t know what to do?”.

He, however, said that ultimately they would have to vote for the budget as the ruling party had been serving them “delicious food”. He expressed concern over the poor attendance of the PML-N members in the house, stating that these empty seats exposed the seriousness of the ruling party.

Shahid Rehmani of the PPP was of the view that the budget would not bring any stability to the country.

PPP’s Shagufta Jumani said the finance minister “should come out of Holland” and try to understand the real issues of the people.

PkMAP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai called for ending the role of the establishment from politics. His speech was censored and muted by the official live streaming on Facebook and YouTube by the NA Secretariat.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2024

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