Low attendance: Budget winding up speech stalled

Miftah Ismail unable to speak over lack of quorum

Qadeer Tanoli May 12, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The government faced an awkward moment as Finance Minister Dr Miftah Ismail was unable to deliver the speech, winding up the post-budget session in the National Assembly after the opposition pointed out lack of quorum, after which the sitting was adjourned till Monday.

This has rarely happened before.

As the Finance Minister took the floor to wind up the debate on budgetary proposals, Shireen Mazari of PTI pointed out the lack of quorum.

Senate body finalises budget proposals

The finance minister’s speech is always considered crucial in the budget session, rated as the second most important event after the adoption of the finance bill.

The government faced a huge embarrassment because of the lack of quorum just as the finance minister started his winding up speech.

Highlighting PML-N government’s achievements, former law minister Zahid Hamid said that unscheduled electricity outages had been eliminated after the government increased power production by as much as 12,230 megawatts.

According to him, the government had achieved economic growth rate of 5.8 per cent, the highest in the past 13 years.

He also pointed out that the government had made a record number of legislations during its five-year term.

He also announced that this would be his last stint in the National Assembly and hopefully his son would take his place after the next elections. He pointed out that he had won three consecutive terms from Sialkot.

Quoting the prime minister, he reminded the house that Raja Zafarul Haq’s report had no role in the changes in the Khatm-e-Nabuwat declaration of the Election Act.

According to Hamid, the confusion in this regard had been removed.

Expressing concern over the release of five TTP members by a court, PPP’s Shazia Marri said these men had been involved in facilitating the terrorists who took part in the attack in which Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007.

Marri said that the government had no moral or constitutional authority to present the budget for the entire financial year, adding that the entire opposition had already rejected the budget.

She said that the government failed to finalise the NFC Award during its tenure, adding that the last award had been announced in 2010 during the previous PPP government.

Criticising the federal government for ignoring Sindh in terms of PSDP projects, she said that province’s share for electricity and water schemes worth Rs6.5 billion was just Rs125 million, or just 1.92 per cent of the total allocation.

She pointed out that indirect taxes had been increased by 13.8 per cent while the other taxes had surged by as much as 113 per cent.

Terming NAB duplicitous, she said that it stooped to double standard while dealing with cases against the Sharif family. She pointed out that the family had been implicated in serious corruption cases, but their names had still not been placed on the ECL.

PTI’s Shahryar Afridi said that three chief ministers had walked out of the meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) as a mark of protest. He wondered whether or not belittling smaller federating units did not amount to negation of democratic values.

He said nothing had been allocated for IDPs in the budget.

SA Iqbal Qadri of MQM-P criticized the government for curbing non-filers’ ability to purchase property or cheaper vehicles. He pointed that most such persons bought these vehicles to earn their livelihoods. He said that it was shameful that the government, unable to create job opportunities, was robbing less fortunate people the chance to earn something for their families.

He said that the water shortage in Karachi had become a critical issue in the absence of the installation of any desalination plant.

According to him, the provincial governments were forming local bodies which were not empowered financially.

Senate demands vote in budget approval

Stressing the need for rationalizing taxes on tobacco, Usman Tarakai said that growing tobacco was the sole means of earning in many areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He said that the imposition of ban on the supply of unprocessed sugar to FATA and Afghanistan was also a major issue for local farmers. He urged the government to allow overseas Pakistanis to vote.

PML-N’s Rao Ajmal called for lowering interest rates on loans to farmers.

Expressing concern, he said that no funds had been allocated for building water reservoirs.

He also urged the government to allow farmers to import high-yield seeds.

Also on Friday, the National Assembly discussed incorporating Senate’s recommendations in the next year’s budget.

Appreciating Senate’s suggestions, Naeema Kishwar Khan of JUI-F said that FBR’s tax application was too complex and it should be simplified and be made available in Urdu.

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