Bilawal’s plain talk on budget upsets PML-N

PML-N senior leader says coalition partners should not open new front against each other now

RAMEEZ KHAN June 19, 2023
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (L) and Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal. Photo: FILE


In a rejoinder to Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s claim that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led government did not fulfil its budgetary commitments, a senior leader of the PML-N has said coalition partners should sort out all issues in cabinet meetings and not in public rallies.

“Instead of criticizing each other in public, coalition partners should discuss their issues in cabinet or committee meetings,” said Federal Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal on Sunday while addressing a rally in his native Narowal district of Punjab.

“Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has always given more importance to the coalition partners than to his own party members and has always resolved their issues. Taking shots at each other in public creates an air of instability, which Pakistan cannot afford,” he added.

Addressing a rally in Swat on Saturday, Bilawal, who is also the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)—the second biggest party in the ruling coalition, accused his own government of totally ignoring the provinces that bore the brunt of last year’s devastating floods in the proposed budget.

“The budget for fiscal 2023-24 contains little of the PPP’s input,” he said, adding that “If Muslim League [PML-N] wants the PPP to vote for this budget then it must first allocate funds for flood reconstruction.”

Commenting on the statement, Iqbal said the country was still not out of the woods yet.

Likening the coalition to a bouquet of flowers, he said this coalition government is a family which needs to work together with a national spirit for the betterment of this country.

He said creating instability is the hallmark of the politics of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, who, he claimed, gave economic jolts to the country.

“With Imran Khan front closed, we should not open a new front against each other,” he said in a reference to a crackdown against the PTI which has practically decimated the former ruling party.

Ahsan said there are advantages and disadvantages of a coalition government.
“Decisions require consensus, and creating consensus takes time, but once a consensus is reached, such decisions have a wider acceptance.”  The minister said after coming into power in April 2022, Shehbaz Sharif has taken all decisions after consulting the coalition partners.

“During preparation of the budget all coalition partners were taken on board. Development budget was prepared in consultation with all parties and provinces.

“The National Economic Council (NEC) comprises all provincial chief ministers and takes decisions on the basis of consensus. When decisions are taken by consensus, then it is incumbent upon all to own these decisions and defend them in public.”

He said after the 2022 floods, the federal government utilized all available resources for rehabilitation of people in Sindh and Balochistan under the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).

“The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) distributed tents and other necessities worth Rs15 to Rs20 billion in two provinces.”

Praising Minister for Power Khurram Dastagir, he said all transmission lines and grid stations were restored in flood affected areas in the shortest time possible.

He said a large chunk of international aid obtained through a Geneva Conference would be directed towards Sindh and Balochistan. He said they are working with a national spirit.

“It should be the collective effort of this coalition government to ensure that Pakistan sails out of the turbulent water. We are serving the country with a national spirit,” he said.

Taking a swipe at Imran Khan for his alleged economic mismanagement, Ahsan if the PML-N had not taken up the challenge of saving the country, Pakistan would have defaulted in May or June last year.

He said when they took over the government, the economy was taking its last breath.

“If we had defaulted then there would be a Sri Lanka like situation. People would have forgotten about the price hike and ordeals of today. Crimes would have been committed for a loaf of bread.

“We had two options: save our politics or save Pakistan, and we chose to save the country even at the cost of our politics.”

He said the government has not let the country default or go bankrupt. “We are gradually moving towards reviving Pakistan’s economy.”

He said the PML-N is the only party with a track record to deliver on its promises and has a visionary leader like Nawaz Sharif, who has given Pakistan all its development projects.

“We hope that the people of Pakistan will once again vote for us like they voted us into power in 2013. Nawaz Sharif would have made Pakistan an economic power if he had not been ousted in 2017,” he said in a reference to Nawaz’s July 2017 disqualification on the order of the apex court.

Commenting on the controversy, PPP leader and Special Assistant to the PM Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the issue has been hyped up unnecessarily.  “A meeting will be held on Monday [today]. In the meeting this issue will be addressed,” he said.


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