ISLAMABAD: Ending its boycott of parliamentary proceedings, the Awami National Party on Monday lashed out at the army for what it called its involvement in ‘commercial ventures’, asking the government to present details of the defence budget to parliament.
“We don’t relish the criticism being directed at the military, but at the same time we want our armed forces to be professional, confining themselves to do their basic job of defending the country’s geographical borders and people,” ANP’s Parliamentary Leader in Senate Haji Muhammad Adeel said during debate on the federal budget.
His remarks came two days after PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif’s statement in which he, without naming it, asked the army to ‘change its mindset’, in an apparent response to an indirect criticism of his party by the army at a corps commanders’ meeting last week.
The ANP senator said his party stood shoulder to shoulder with the army in the ongoing war against terrorism, but ‘the army should not run businesses’.
He said today the armed forces were involved in construction of plazas, cement and pharmaceutical businesses and even running petrol pumps, CNG stations and marriage halls.
He said that following in the footsteps of the army, now police and other institutions had also started doing businesses.
He asked the finance minister not only to provide details of the defence budget, but also give details of income of the commercial institutions being run by armed forces.
He said if the armed forces confined themselves to their basic role, then ‘we will ask the finance minister to provide them more money to purchase guns, bullets and aircraft’.
Mr Haji Adeel said the finance minister had himself stated that the defence budget should also be accounted for, but he had not specified any mechanism for doing so.
The ANP senator also called for a no-war pact with India so that the forces could concentrate on the ongoing war on terror.
He asked India also to support Pakistan as ‘if God forbid, we and our forces lose this war, then Mumbai, Kolkatta and other Indian cities will also not remain safe’.
He criticised the government for not allocating funds for the ongoing and new hydro-power projects in the KP province, adding that the government had saved Rs23 billion through devolution of 15 ministries, but this amount had not been distributed among provinces.
He said on the one hand, the budget for the president, the prime minister and all chief ministers had been increased and, on the other, no amount had been allocated for the construction of new dams in spite of the energy crisis.
The ANP senator said his party had ended the boycott of the budget session on the assurances of President Asif Ali Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah that its grievances about the Karachi situation would be looked into and resolved.
Senator Raja Zafarul Haq of PML-N asked Senate Chairman Farooq Naek to reverse his decision of appointing Maulana Haideri as the Leader of Opposition before holding a debate on the matter.
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