Dinner diplomacy ahead of budget vote

PM assures coalition partners that govt will complete term; PML-Q and BNP-M stay away from event


Rizwan Shehzad June 29, 2020

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday urged the National Assembly members of the PTI as well as those belonging to the ruling party’s coalition partners to ensure their presence during crucial voting on the federal budget 2020-21 on Monday (today) -- hours after a united opposition rejected the budget and hinted at creating problems for the government in parliament.

He also assured his party and coalition partners that the government would complete its tenure and those conspiring against him would not succeed.

Believing that a meal is a good step towards improving relations, Qorma, Naan and Matar Chawal were served to the MNAs of the ruling party and the allies, MQM-P, GDA, BAP and JWP, which attended the PM’s dinner on Sunday night.

However, two other partners, the PML-Q and BNP-Mengal, turned down the invitation and did not attend the event.

The PML-Q announced on Sunday that it would not be attending the dinner after the BNP-M also turned down the invitation a day earlier. The PML-Q excused itself from attending the dinner saying that the party leadership was busy but it assured the PTI that it would vote in favour of the budget.

The BNP-M rejected the invitation as party chief Akhtar Mengal had maintained that there was no sense in attending the dinner after both the parties were no longer partners.

At the dinner, the premier tried to allay the concerns and reservations of the MNAs of his party as well the coalition partners over the non-provision of the development funds, the government’s economic policies and the massive increase in fuel prices just before the approval of the budget.

He assured the lawmakers that they would be provided with development funds soon.

On Saturday, PTI MNA Raja Riaz had shocked the treasury benches in the National Assembly when he criticised his own party over the massive overnight increase in the price of petrol.

Riaz said the MNAs were not even able to go back to their constituencies and face the people.

Those who attended the dinner said the premier’s was primarily focused on the budget as he not only asked the parliamentarians to ensure their attendance in the assembly but also ensure that it was passed.

Apart from meeting the delegations of the MQM and GDA, the premier individually met MNAs.

The PTI lawmaker, who attended the dinner, confirmed that the prime minister listened to the concerns and problems of the members and discussed the economic goals, challenges and the issues being faced by the country because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawmaker further said the premier heard the reservations of Riaz as well as the members of the ruling party belonging to southern Punjab.

The MNAs from southern Punjab had certain reservations over development funds and the party’s pre-election promises with their constituents.

“The prime minister has assured the allies that the PTI would take them along,” the PTI MNA said.

The premier also told the lawmakers that the pandemic had inflicted severe economic losses and the government had presented “the best budget in the current difficult situation”.

During the event, the premier reiterated his oft-repeated line, “Aap nay ghabrana nahi hai [Do not be afraid]”, and assured the participants that the government would complete its tenure. “Contrary to the opposition’s statements every day, not only will we complete our tenure but also be elected for the next five years.”

The prime minister further said the PTI’s ideology was to fight against corruption. “The day we deviate from our ideology, we will fail,” he added. “Only the PTI can bring about a change in the country.”

The premier admitted that there was pressure from “mafias” as the government was going ahead with making the sugar, wheat and PIA reports public.

“I don't care about any mafia,” he said. “I only care about the people.”

He maintained that there was no money to run the country when the PTI came to power and it was struck by the Covid-19 pandemic when the economy improved. He also defended the increase in petroleum prices.

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