Finance bill ‘lethal, poisonous’

Opposition lawmakers shout slogans against govt in National Assembly

Our Correspondent June 13, 2024
Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb is presenting budget 2024-25 in National Assembly on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. PHOTO: PID


Minutes before the budget session started, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb was trying hard to focus on his upcoming speech and how he would deliver it, unsure if he should keep standing or sit until the session formally began, occasionally taking a sip of water, and frequently checking if the reading material was in order.

Just when he was busy making up his mind about how he would deliver his first-ever budget speech, a loud slogan shook the National Assembly hall: “Kon Bachaye Ga Pakistan (who will save Pakistan), Imran Khan, Imran Khan,” announcing the entry of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-turned Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) – PTI-SIC – lawmakers into the assembly, clearly conveying the opposition’s mood.

The sloganeering set the tone for the remainder of the inaugural budget session as PTI-SIC MNAs kept shouting slogans in favour of PTI founding chairman Imran Khan and against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the government, holding Imran’s posters, carrying placards against the budget, and preventing the banker-turned-financial czar from smoothly delivering his maiden budget speech.

Just like previous years, the budget books and other reading material was mercilessly used to slam down on the desk to create noise and disrupt proceedings.

Occasionally, the PTI-SIC lawmakers tore papers and threw them into the air. MNA Jamshed Dasti was the most active among them and did not even hesitate to tear papers from the books placed on the desks. The opposition parties’ legislators gathered near PM Shehbaz’s chair and kept shouting slogans against him and in favour of their incarcerated leader.

Seeing the opposition MNAs slowly moving closer to PM Shehbaz, the ruling PML-N lawmakers stood up from their chairs and formed a shield around him.

Sensing that things could take a wrong turn, PTI Chief Whip Amir Dogar was seen asking his lawmakers to maintain distance so that the protest would not lead to a physical clash.

For the rest of the session, the opposition did not take a break from sloganeering and protesting, which could have allowed Aurangzeb to breathe a sigh of relief.

Both sides continued their activities until the session was adjourned, to reconvene after Eidul Azha, when Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Omar Ayub, would give the opening speech on the budget.

While reacting to the budget, the opposition leader described it as anti-people and criticized the government for not consulting any stakeholders.

Speaking to the media outside the Parliament House, Ayub, Barrister Gohar, Ali Muhammad Khan, Asad Qaiser, among others, censured the situation where the party with the majority in the House found itself relegated to the opposition benches, asserting that the budget was presented by those who had reached Parliament on Form-47.

PTI Reaction

Later, the party issued a statement describing the budget as IMF-dictated and laden with taxes, labeling it as ‘lethal and poisonous’ for the inflation-stricken populace, warning of its devastating effects on the economy and the common man due to the anticipated surge in inflation.

In addition, the opposition party termed the federal government’s budget anti-people, stating it would not only result in the ‘economic murder’ of the people but also continue to adversely affect the daily lives of the common man.

The party stated that the current budget is essentially an IMF budget, devoid of any input from the government.

It stated that the target for economic growth rate in the next fiscal year has been set at 3.6 per cent, whereas the World Bank has projected that the growth rate would not exceed 2.4 per cent.

The PTI also maintained that the target of a 12 per cent inflation rate is ‘totally unrealistic’, asserting that achieving it in line with the budget will be impossible. Additionally, the party expressed concern that heavy taxes imposed on the people could lead to a significant rise in inflation.

On the tax target of Rs12,970 billion, PTI criticized the 38 per cent increase as a ‘very cruel move by the government’.

The party spokesperson pointed out that non-tax revenue, a major source of inflation, had surged to Rs3,587 billion, adding that the budget deficit, projected by the finance minister to be 6.9 per cent of the GDP, would reach the highest level in history.



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