NA session Opposition, government trade barbs over budget

One lawmaker asks if Port-Qasim has been handed over to US

Qamar Zaman/riazul Haq June 15, 2016
One lawmaker asks if Port-Qasim has been handed over to US. PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: On a boring budget discussion in the National Assembly on Tuesday, the opposition and government traded barbs over various aspects of the money bill, with the former dubbing the budget anti-public.

Continuing the budget debate, Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Ramesh Lal criticised the government for reducing the budget for minority affairs consistently for the past three years and for failing to include anything substantial in the latest finance bill.

He complained that there is no cemetery for minorities in Islamabad. Furthermore, the stipulated five per cent jobs quota for minorities has yet to be implemented.

The opposition also took to criticising the National Command Authority (Amendment) Ordinance 2016 (I of 2016).

“The Statutory Regulatory Orders were from January 3, 2016 and from the ordinance it seems the government has handed over the charge of Port Qasim to the United States,” PTI’s chief whip Shireen Mazari said.

One of the provisions the ordinance seeks to waive customs duty for the machinery imported by US for scanning goods at Port Qasim. “If the port has been handed over to the US then Parliament must be informed,” she stated curtly.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s Azra Fazal and Alvi tried to talk about the ordinance, but the speaker said it would be debated once the bill is introduced in the house. The speaker directed the parliamentary secretary for finance to gather information about the matter and inform the house. Khan, however, assured that nothing had been handed over to the US.

Khan told the house that the second meeting to bring in $200 billion stashed away in Swiss banks would be held within this month.

Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, a lawmaker for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, spoke about the negative growth in tax revenues. Noting that the “Chinese have deputed 600 PhDs” to oversee the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he suggested an independent authority should be formed to oversee the mega project.

His comments about the need for new provinces in the country and the inability of secretary industries to control industries in Punjab received loud desk thumping from the opposition benches. Bakhtiar also called for enhancing the agriculture tax.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl’s lawmaker Aliya Kamran criticised the budget and government policies. “This budget has nothing for the youth,” she said. Terming the budget visionless and unplanned, PPP’s lawmaker Shazia Marri slammed government’s inaction on announcing the National Finance Commission award and census.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2016.


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