Finance Bill, 2016 : Our budget proposals ignored, say senators

Lawmakers dub process a ‘futile exercise’, claiming it has reduced the upper house to a debating society

Maryam Usman June 11, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Discussing the Finance Bill, 2016, the lawmakers in the Senate on Friday lamented that the federal government has been continually sidelining their recommendations during the budget-making process.

They dubbed the process of making recommendations a futile exercise, adding that the Senate had been converted into a debating society, which had little to do except for going through the motions.

Senator Babar Awan said the current budget begins with indirect legislation. “Due to the minister and finance secretary, the country is held hostage by the IMF [International Monetary Fund],” he added.

Senator Muzaffar Hussain Shah called for removing excise from the import of agriculture machinery. He highlighted that the senators’ purpose was to ensure interests of their respective provinces.

“The senators will be failing in their duty if they are unable to protect the fiscal and financial responsibilities of the (federating) units they represent in the federation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Sherry Rehman filed a public petition, asking for the constitution of a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the Senate. The petition contained signatures of members from the PPP, as well as other parties, including one from the ruling PML-N.

She said it was expected that the PAC of Senate would work better than that of the National Assembly. “It will boost trust of the public if the Senate does accountability of the government for corruption,” she said.

Senator Mushahid Hussain seconded the move and noted that both houses of parliament are equal according to the Constitution. “It is time for the Senate to prepare its own PAC,” he added.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani said the House Business Advisory Committee had decided that the decision regarding the Senate’s PAC will be taken after return of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Prime Minister Nawaz is currently recuperating in London after an open heart surgery and is expected to return after Eidul Fitr.

However, Senator Farooq Naek reminded the house that even if the prime minister agreed to the Senate’s PAC, the house would need to amend its rules. “There can be no joint committee of the Senate and the National Assembly and for this, you will have to amend the rules as well,” he said.

Speaking on a point of order, Senator Ghous Muhammad Niazi said a bill is being introduced in the Indian Parliament that whoever calls Kashmir a disputed territory will be punished. The punishment entails seven years in prison and a fine of Rs1 crore.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2016.



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