Budget caught in political cross-hairs

Bilawal warns govt against ignoring PPP’s input in finance bill

Our Correspondent June 17, 2023
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addresses a rally at Khwazakhela in Swat. PHOTO: NNI



The budget presented by the ruling coalition keeping in view the looming elections in mind came into scathing criticism by one of the main allies on Saturday, charging that the finance bill had totally ignored the provinces that bore the burnt of last year’s devastating floods.

“The budget for fiscal 2023-24 contains little of the PPP’s input,” said Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari while addressing a public gathering at Khwazakhela in Swat.

The PPP chairman’s reaction came a day after the party lawmakers, while taking part in the debate on the federal budget in the National Assembly, had assailed the ruling PML-N for not providing promised funds to the Sindh government for rehabilitation and reconstruction of the flood-affected areas and “denying” the province its due share from the tax amount.

Unprecedented flash floods caused by historic monsoon rains killed at least 1,000 people and affected more than 33 million mainly in Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan last year.

Bilawal, who also holds the portfolio of foreign minister in the federal cabinet, demanded of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to hold those hindering funds for last year’s flood victims accountable.

“The federal government had promised the world and the provincial governments that it would match the funds spent on the flood victims,” he informed a large gathering and added that the PPP had sent its high-level committee members to the prime minister to apprise him of the grievances they felt over the finance bill.

The PPP chairman was referring to the PPP delegation comprising Minister for Commerce Syed Naveed Qamar, Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman, Minister for Water Resources Syed Khurshid Shah, Adviser to the PM on Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs Qamaruz Zaman Kaira, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and Senator Nisar Khuro, who called on the prime minister on Friday.

Continuing with his criticism of the budget, Bilawal added, “We have approached our allies to make them understand that it is imperative that we look after the flood victims in our budget.”

“We have no doubts over the intentions of the prime minister, as he witnessed the destruction with his own eyes. However, we would like to ask him to introspect within his team and hold those hindering this process accountable. We hope that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his team would address our concerns and work towards resolving them,” he added.

“If Muslim League wants PPP to vote for this budget then its’ not possible without allocating funds for flood reconstruction,” the PPP chief cautioned.

Bilawal also urged the coalition partners to start preparing for the next general elections, observing that only a government with a fresh mandate can solve the problems faced by the people.

He said that his party was gearing up for the elections and ready to make history just as it did in the recently-held LG elections.

The foreign minister said that strict action should be taken against terrorists and “political terrorists”.

“The people of Swat know that whenever the common, poor people were taken care of, it was during the PPP’s rule. It was during the tenures of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto when the people of Swat attained ownership rights as well as employment,” he added.

Bilawal said that the selected puppet — a term he uses for former prime minister Imran Khan — snatched jobs from the people.

“In the past four years, it is unfortunate that neither the PTI nor the government had the space for people who wanted to see their land, Swat prosper. In contrast, those who had materialistic aspirations would tag along with Imran Khan,” he added.

He said that the PPP made the decision to wipe out all those who wished to colour the Swat valley red with blood. “Our sacrifices and those rendered by the police and Army led to the establishment of peace in the region. However, Khan brought back the very same terrorists who we had chased out.

Bilawal said that the government was willing to work with Afghanistan on a bilateral level to bring economic prosperity in the region by realising the importance of peace and security.

“We need to extend the message of peace to the terrorists, to convince them to drop their weapons. We do not wish to hold another operation or initiate another war; the people have had enough of those and now deserve peace. However, we are not willing to bow before any terrorists for the sake of peace. We know that PPP and the people of Swat share the same sentiments as neither have surrendered before terrorism. We also need to put a stop to the newly introduced political terrorism.”

He said that each and every citizen of Pakistan condemned the tragedy of May 9 and all stakeholders as well as political parties share the same views to make an example out of the culprits.

“If they are forgiven once, then there would be no rule of law, government or democracy in the country. No other party compete with the PPP when it comes to the sacrifices it has rendered for the people, Quaid-e-Awam Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto preferred being sent to the gallows over comprising on the interest of the nation. Similarly, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had the opportunity to wreak havoc over General Zia’s government when she was welcomed by a record-breaking mammoth gathering, but she chose peace for her people and country.”

Bilawal said that he was 19 years old when his mother was martyred. “Had we raised any other slogan at the time, or demanded for revenge by pointing towards the President House where Musharraf was sitting, the country would have burned to the ground. However, even at that time, we reiterated that democracy is the best revenge. Those who were brought into politics and supported for three decades by the umpire’s signals, declared war with the state after merely spending a night in prison,” he said.

Bilawal said that the economic situation of the country was troubling every citizen, saying that PPP manifesto contains the answers and solutions to all the challenges we face.

“We believe that the PPP is not competing with any other entity or political party, but with hunger, poverty, inflation and unemployment. The day that we eradicate these problems with the help of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s manifesto is not far,” he added.

He said that the majority of the country’s population is constituted of youngsters and it is the PPP's priority to integrate them into the decision-making process.
“In fourteen months, a young foreign minister has achieved what no other predecessor could. There is huge potential all over the world and we know just how willing the world is to work and cooperate with us. When we were combating climate catastrophes, the world stood with us at a time when certain circles were predicting that it was too busy with the Russia-Ukraine conflict to pay us any heed,” he maintained.

Bilawal said that the world needs young people, it wants both low-skilled and high-skilled people, with the only condition of us stabilising ourselves.

“We will surely work together and strive to show our elders that when given the opportunity, youngsters can make the most of it. When a young politician had proposed to bring forth a no-confidence motion to drive out the selected puppet, it was met by scepticism by the elders but it is this very democratic path that proved to be successful.”

The PPP chairman urged the party workers to initiate the process for electoral campaigning as the party is ready to avail the opportunity to work towards the realisation of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s dream.


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