The National Assembly on Monday approved nine demands for grants worth Rs157.331 billion and rejected 535 cut motions moved by the opposition parties to reduce development expenditures for various projects and schemes.
With the approval the house completed the process of demands for grants. Now, the lower house of parliament is expected to approve the finance bill on Tuesday (today).
Speaking on the cut motions, the opposition and treasury members engaged in heated debates. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and former information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb clashed over the issue of freedom of press.
Chaudhry said that there should be consensus and uniformity between the government and the opposition. He added that Prime Minister Imran Khan had to build the structure of every institution from the foundation.
Aurangzeb, while participating in the debate on 107 cut motions for the three demands for grants of the information ministry worth Rs10 billion, said that the media regulatory authority was tantamount to attacking freedom of expression. She added that journalists must be protected.
She said that previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had worked on a culture, film policy and had released funds for the artists but that fund was not seen in the budget. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawmaker Shazia Marri urged the government to work for the protection of journalists.
Winding up the debate on the cut motions, Chaudhry said that there was an external publicity wing, but its performance was not up to the mark. “I asked this wing if there was a book written in the West about our narrative, a film has been made globally in which our point of view is highlighted,” he said.
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“The answer was no,” Chaudhry told the house. He added that one of the reasons for this was that the annual budget of the Pakistan’s External Publicity Wing was Rs45 million, compared to India’s budget of Rs210 million.
Chaudhry said that more than 845 fake websites were constantly spreading propaganda against Pakistan, according to the recently expose DisinfoLab. “The world media was being fed false news about Pakistan,” the minister said.
He added that the Kashmiris’ struggle for their right to self-determination was being questioned, while nationalism was being promoted in Balochistan. In addition, 300,000 tweets were sent from Allahabad during the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan protests.
“This gives an idea of what kind of war is being waged against Pakistan. This is the real war and this is the war of Pakistan,” he added. He said that most attacks on journalists took place during the PPP tenure.
Also, during Monday’s session, PML-N lawmaker Khawaja Asif came to the house for the first time since his release on bail.
Meanwhile, the house rejected 111 cut motions on two demands of the ministry of railways worth Rs72.30 billion. The lawmakers rejected 175 cut motions on two demands of the health ministry worth Rs49.79 billion. Also, 73 cut motions were rejected on demands of the food security ministry worth over Rs25.13 billion.
While discussing the issue of purdah for women, Jamaat-e-Islami member Abdul Akbar Chitrali backed purdah for women. He said that the practice of spreading obscenity in the name of freedom must stop. “Anyone who wants to support obscenity should leave Pakistan. “We fully support the prime minister’s statement.”
PPP member Naz Baloch said that the veil is an order of the religion and it should be observed but added that Islam also teaches men to lower their gaze. She also pointed out the incidents of desecration of women’s corpses, saying that these acts should also be condemned.
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