LAHORE: It was another fiery session in the Punjab Assembly as opposition leader Hamza Shehbaz said the debt of US$6 billion to the IMF is an attack on the country’s sovereignty. Meanwhile, the provincial law minister demanded the formation of a commission to probe the bounced cheques issued by former PML-N rulers of the province.
Opposition leader Hamza Shehbaz Sharif, in his opening speech on the “General Discussion on the Annual Budget for the Year of 2019-20”, compared the PML-N government’s policies to the current regime. As Hamza Shehbaz kicked off his speech, the treasury lawmakers started chanting slogans of “liar liar”. This was similar to the chants of the opposition when the finance minister presented the budget on Friday.
In reaction, the treasury also stood up and chanted slogans against Prime Minster Imran Khan and his sister.
However, Speaker Chaudhary Pervez Elahi pacified both sides with a warning. He said strict action would be taken if any members of the house tried to violate discipline.
Hamza Shehbaz returned to his speech and said the provincial government had put the last nail in the coffin of the poor masses with this budget. He said that neither the budget nor the government had any kind of destination. “It will be an attack on our internal and external sovereignty when the country will be asked to implement a foreign agenda.”
He said Pakistan would no longer need foreign enemies if the people continued fighting against each other. “If we cannot steer our nation out of the current crisis, the coming generation will never forgive us.”
He also took a jibe at the government’s so-called austerity measures and asked why the budget allocation for the PM house had increased from Rs986 million to Rs.1.90billion. Hamza pointed an increase in the budget of the Governor House, from Rs400 million to Rs490 million, had also been suggested. The opposition leader claimed an additional Rs180 million had been spent on the chief minister’s protocol, while there was a huge hike in expenditures related to helicopter use. He also pointed to a 35% increase in administrative expenditures
“The PML-N government’s work is visible in every field whether it is education, health, economy or other sectors. “This government has no economic plan,” he said. The opposition leader added foreign investment has fallen to 52%.
“Inflation is expected to hit 13% and the same stood at 5 in PML-N’s tenure. The devaluation of the rupee has made history by reaching 30%,” Hamza said. He said the dollar had increased, the stock exchange had fallen and the prices of essential items had hit new heights.
“Foreign debts increased to Rs500 billion. There are millions of people living below the poverty line and unemployment has hit 21%,” he claimed.
Hamza said large-scale manufacturing had decreased and millions of people were jobless. “Where have the jobs of 10 million people vanished?” he asked.
He said the government allocated a Rs352 billion development budget, while the PML-N had given a total outlay of Rs635 billion under the same head. The opposition leader stated that education, agriculture and other sectors were given “nothing” in this budget.
Responding to the leader of the opposition’s speech, provincial law minister Raja Basharat demanded a commission to probe those former PML-N lawmakers who did not clear their government dues in their tenure. He said there was also a need to look into the delays of projects by the previous government, due to which PTI suffered huge losses.
He suggested that an FIR, under Section 420 of the PPC, should be registered against the then PML-N rulers whose negligence caused cheques to bounce. He defended the coming budget, saying it would be pro-people and take the country towards progress.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2019.