ISLAMABAD: While the government and its allies on Wednesday were engaged in normal proceedings of the lower house, the opposition parties staged a mock parliamentary session outside parliament in protest against not telecasting opposition MPs speeches live on state-owned Pakistan Television (PTV).
The joint opposition – including PPP, PTI, MQM, and Jamaat-e-Islami – boycotted the entire sixth sitting of the ongoing budget session as the government failed to convince it to join the regular proceedings.
In the mock session, the opposition leaders delivered speeches, criticising government for suppressing ‘voice of the opposition’ by not airing their views about federal budget 2017-18 on the PTV.
They also lambasted government for the unannounced and prolonged power outages especially in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the holy month of Ramazan.
The opposition also threatened the government that if its ‘just demands’ were not met then it would have no other option but to boycott the joint sitting of parliament in the coming month which will be addressed by President Mamnoon Hussain.
Earlier, on Wednesday morning the opposition made their own arrangements outside the house by placing chairs and a rostrum to hold a mock session.
Irrespective of the opposition’s protest, the government and allied parties continued the normal proceedings and some eight lawmakers expressed their views on recently presented federal budget.
PTI’s Dr Arif Alvi and MQM’s Kishwer Zehra presided over the proceedings of the mock session in whose intervals the opposition lawmakers, holding placards, also shouted anti-government slogans.
At one point, the National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq sent a delegation – comprising Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Chairman Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer – to bring back the opposition to the house.
But as the government delegation reached the venue the opposition members started chanting “Go Nawaz Go” slogans, forcing the delegates to go back without negotiating with the opposition.
Achakzai later told media that parliament could undertake necessary legislation to make it necessary for the PTV to air speeches of opposition leader in the house.
Addressing the attendees of mock session, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah said the government had failed to allocate sufficient funds for sectors such as education, health and environment.
Questioning the government’s energy policy, he said, “China is gradually phasing out its coal-fired power plants, but Pakistan is installing them despite all the environmental hazards that attend them.”
“We are told that planning is under way to solve the water crisis,” he said, adding the government had allocated a mere Rs20 billion for construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam.
Shah said 12 to 18 hours announced load shedding had made the lives of common people miserable but it seemed that government did not care about it. PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi said not only load shedding but economic policies of the government were also taking their toll on the poor.
“The government has failed. It is failing to provide people with electricity, gas and water,” Qureshi said, adding that education and health were not on government’s priority list.
Asad Umar of PTI claimed that Pakistan’s exports had never been that low in the country’s history as the government had failed to give viable incentives to the industry and agriculture sector.
He also pointed out that foreign and domestic debt of the country had increased manifold during the tenure of the current government, besides its failure to arrest the current account deficit.
MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar said the government was fulfilling its expenditures by getting loans from foreign and domestic lenders. “I fear that our budget deficit may soar to 8 per cent next year if the government failed to mend its ways,” Sattar observed.
He said the government is offering 12 per cent incentive to euro bond investors and this is discouraging foreign businessmen to invest in Pakistan. “The government started its journey from circular debt of Rs400 billion and after four years it has reached to Rs400 billion again,” he said.