A loss of interest in the budget debate was apparent during the sixth sitting of the Upper House’s 82nd session, with only two Senators speaking on the Annual Budget Statement.
Starting 44 minutes late, the sitting met only for an hour and 22 minutes, with 15 legislators present at the start and 18 when the session was adjourned.
The leader of the Opposition along with parliamentary leaders from the Awami National Party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, the Balochistan National Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid were notably missing from the session.
However, Senate Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch, who was chairing the session, did not give any ruling regarding their absence.
The finance and revenue minister had presented the budget on June 1. Following the 18th Amendment, the Senate has 14 days to give recommendations on the budget after it has been presented. On a positive note, protest, boycotts or walkouts were not witnessed during Friday’s sitting.
Points of order
Zafar Ali Shah of the PML-N raised a point of order regarding a recent statement by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta that the US was “losing patience” with Pakistan. Shah termed it a dictatorial statement and an insult to Pakistan’s dignity.
Shah said that the remark was condemnable and should be taken up by Pakistan at the highest official level.
The acting speaker said that the foreign office of Pakistan must have taken notice and the matter will be discussed in the Senate’s body. Mushahid Hussain of the PML-Q, while speaking on a point of order on the same issue, said that “the statement of the US defence secretary is very irresponsible and everything we are facing today is a result of America’s wrong policies … I have summoned a meeting of the senate’s standing committee on defence and will look into the matter.”
Meanwhile, Usman Saifullah of the Pakistan Peoples Party kicked off the budget debate. Saifullah said that the subsidy being given to the elite class in the federal budget should be withdrawn immediately.
Mushahidullah Khan of the PML-N said that the PPP is really a party of four provinces and warned that if it becomes weak due to corruption, the country would be on the verge of collapse.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2012.
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