Budget comes under heavy battering

Faraz termed budget “a killer poison”, PPP lawmakers called it adoption of IMF dictation

Naeem Asghar June 14, 2024
While the budgetary measures show that the government is trying to offset the adverse effect of inflation on the poor, they do not indicate any significant remedy for the present financial malaise. Photo: file


The federal budget came under heavy criticism in the Senate on Thursday, as not only the opposition, but the government allies, including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), also slammed heavy taxes on the people from the lower and middle classes.

Opposition leader Shibli Faraz termed the budget “a killer poison”, while the PPP lawmakers called it the adoption of the International Monetary Funds (IMF) dictation. Awami National Party (ANP) Parliamentary Leader Aimil Wali lamented the levy of “too many taxes”.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML) Parliamentary Leader Irfan Siddiqui and other treasury senators, on the other hand, defended the
budget, which was unveiled on Wednesday. They also criticised the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The Senate met with Chairman Yusuf Raza Gilani in the chair. Opposition Leader Shibli Faraz opened the budget debate in the upper house of parliament. “The budget is reflective of a government that is not legitimate. The PTI considers the budget a killer poison,” Faraz told the house.

“The elite and the illegitimate government stand on the one side, while salaried-class people are further taxed on the other,” he said. “On the one hand, they are trying to increase exports and on the other, they are levying taxes on them. IT [information technology] exports have been attacked,” he added.

Faraz criticised the policy of the PPP, saying that it was becoming the “MQM-2” to serve its interests through blackmail – a reference to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s recurring protests and threats of quitting the alliance with PTI government.

Faraz stressed that his leader and his team consisted of honest persons, therefore, not a single corruption case was made against any of the cabinet ministers, who served during the PTI government. However, he added that he was disappointed now, and wanted to quit politics and go abroad.

Coming back to budget, the PTI leader said that Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb was a thorough gentleman and belonged to the banking sector. But in his opinion, he added, the minister’s joining the government was a wrong decision.

“More taxes have been imposed on the salaried class. The one with a salary of Rs50,000 has been brought into the tax net. It has become impossible for the lower class employees to eke out a living. Taxes have been imposed on all sectors, which will depress our economy,” the opposition leader said.

Faraz warned that the country’s debt servicing had risen to 75% of the total revenues. In our time [PTI’s tenure in government], there was a debt of $44.3 billion, but today the debt has soared to $67.5 billion,” Faraz told the house.

Asserting that the country’s elite “always sucked the blood of the poor”, he claimed that in the last two years, 20 million more people slipped below the poverty line. “This [trend] will stop when the elite keep their businesses and assets inside the country and bring their money from foreign banks,” he added.

Faraz also defended the arrest of then opposition politicians during the PTI government, stressing that the cases in which those people went to jail were instituted by the PPP and the PML-N governments against each other. “During the PTI era, no cases were instituted, except one.”

The two parties, which were now part of the ruling coalition, instituted “cases against each other to blackmail each other”. He added that during the PTI government, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) made recovery of Rs426 billion corruption money.

Senator Siddiqui of the PML-N responded to the opposition leader’s speech, saying that if the elections on February 8, 2024 were not transparent, then the PTI should tell the house whether the vote in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa [K-P] was transparent.

“For Shibli Faraz, the legal government is the one that is their own [PTI] and the rest are illegal,” Siddiqui said. “The election in K-P is being called transparent and at other places it is labelled as rigged,” he added. “At this time, all institutions are functioning. Even the PTI government is in place in a province [K-P].”

Speaking about the corruption cases against the PML-N leadership, Siddiqui told the house that those cases involved Rs10 billion. However, he added that just one corruption case against the PTI leader involved Rs60 billion.

About the national debt, the PML-N senator said that the amount the PTI government borrowed in just four years was more than the country borrowed in 71 years. “We had said goodbye to the IMF [during the 2013-18 PML-N government] but you went to the IMF again.”

Saifullah Abro of the PTI said that the government claimed 26% inflation but increased the salary by 25%. He called for the audit of the entire 2024 elections, which, he added, should start from the K-P to settle the issue of rigging.

Abro questioned the non-allocation of funds for the M-6 Motorway and Pindi Kharian projects. He also demanded an open process for the privatisation of the First Women’s Bank. “The bank was a gift of the late Benazir Bhutto to the women of the country…its privatisation should be open.”

Aimal Wali Khan of the ANP said that the recent budget imposed too many taxes. In a sarcastic tone, he suggested to the government to also impose “tax on breathing, tax on death, tax on marriage and tax on childbirth”.

He said that the budget was dictated by the IMF, in which the nation did not get any relief. He also criticised 17.6% increase in the defence budget. He proposed to the house to do away with all the privileges available to the president, prime minister, ministers and lawmakers.

He sharply rebuked the government for its decision of taking away passports of the overseas Pakistanis if they sought refuge abroad. “I strongly protest the decision of cancelling the passport. This policy should be withdrawn,” he said.

Taj Haider of the PPP said that the failed economic policies had been adopted in the budget document on the IMF dictation. He warned that privatisation brought unemployment to the country, but that same old mantra was repeated that “the government should not do business”.

Senator Bushra Anjum Butt of the PML-N congratulated the government for presenting “a good budget”, and taking difficult decisions. PTI Senator Dost Mohammad Khan termed new taxes in the budget a “drone attack on Fata”, a reference to newly-merged tribal districts of K-P.

Senator Aun Abbas of the PTI said that the highest tax had been imposed on the salaried class, while the petroleum levy was increased from Rs60 to Rs80. “Will the country be run by selling PIA [Pakistan International Airlines], Pakistan Steel Mills and the Pakistan Railways,” he asked.

Senator Dinesh Kumar of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) said that the country was running in deficit and the government was meeting the deficit by borrowing more money. “Even, the federal government is giving money to the provinces on interest,” he charged.



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