The Senate session on Tuesday witnessed the opposition parties react strongly to the proposal of giving additional powers to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the customs in the Finance Bill 2021-22 and demanding that they be withdrawn.
Discussing the budget at the beginning of the session led by Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said that the finance bill was giving the FBR the power to make arrests on suspicion of wrongdoing.
“This move is worrisome and should be withdrawn,” she said, asking why 203A is coming in the finance bill.
“Why is the FBR being given too much power?” she said, terming it “mini martial law”.
She said that the finance bill was being prepared to attack people’s fundamental rights. “This is a problem not only of politicians but also of the common man.”
Opposition Leader in the Senate Yousuf Raza Gilani said that such dangerous things should not be passed through the back door using the finance bill.
He asked the leader of house to look into the matter.
PPP Senator Raza Rabbani said that the government has amended the Customs Act in the finance bill.
Rabbani strongly objected to the move that “retail is being included in the definition of smuggling”, saying: “The bill is changing the definition of smuggling to allow customs to raid and arrest any shopkeeper on failing to show an import certificate.”
He said with this amendment, customs officials will raid any shop at will.
The powers being vested in the FBR will transform it into the National Accountability Bureau.
Senator Dr Shehzad Waseem said that the matter is now with the committee and the bill will be finalised with mutual consultation.
“The finance minister (Shaukat Tarin) has assured the law ministry that the powers will be withdrawn through an amendment.”
“There is nothing anti-people in the budget,” he said. “If there is any such legislation in the budget, bring it forward.”
PML-N Senator Azam Nazir Tarar said that an amendment to the finance bill will put traders in jail first and they will be heard later.
Criticising the budget, he said that out of thousands of billions in the budget, only Rs12 billion has been set aside for agriculture.
In this budget, he said, new taxes worth Rs337 billion have been imposed while the price of sugar is expected to increase by Rs5-6.
Tarar said that supplementary grants of Rs1,200 billion were also being approved.
“The present government has not laid a single brick with a loan of Rs15,000 billion, while in three years, 10.5 million Pakistanis have fallen below the poverty line.
Law Minister Farogh Naseem said that the government presented a people-friendly budget. “If the budget is the enemy of the people, why the chambers of commerce of the whole country are calling it a good budget.”
He said in the newspapers, the officials of the chambers of commerce have responded positively.
“Politics has its place, but if anyone has an objection to any part of the budget, let them know the relevant point.”
It is being said that Prime Minister Imran Khan's government cannot work “but thank God the government is in place and nothing like that has happened”.
A bill to further amend the Election Act 2017 passed by the National Assembly was introduced in the upper house of parliament which was referred to the relevant committee by the Senate chairman.
The Senate session was adjourned till 10am on Friday.