Even though the government had clarified its position a day earlier, the opposition did not seem ready to buy its explanation regarding the $1.5 billion aid. The opposition raised the issue again on Thursday and staged a token walkout from the National Assembly to show their dissatisfaction on the ‘friendly’ grant, among other issues.
Offloading Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed from an international flight, NA secretariat’s rejection of adjournment motions and the government’s announcement of not increasing salaries of public servants in the next budget also triggered the token walkout by Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Awami National Party and AML.
Interestingly, the house discussed, debated and disapproved a myriad of issues but no one – in the opposition or the treasury benches – spoke on the first direct meeting of the government with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
But the $1.5 billion gift from the ‘friendly country’ dominated the lower house again. PPP’s Nafeesa Shah said Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s explanation over the generous grant was not satisfactory.
PTI chief Imran Khan also chimed in. “Such gifts in the past have wreaked havoc,” he said, adding, “In the 1980s, it was the gifted money with which we created jihadis and then declared them terrorists after receiving more gifted money in 2001.”
There were no free lunches in the world and “it is our right to know about the details about that money from the government”, he insisted. He advised the government not to be part of the volatile sectarian conflict in the country.
Parliamentary Secretary Finance Rana Afzal urged the opposition not to make this aid an issue as it would give a discouraging message to our friend who gifted the money.
Sheikh Rashid questioned the government’s decision to increase the electricity tariff and other kitchen items but not raising the salaries of state employees in the coming budget. He also recalled the incident in which he was not allowed to travel out of the country and said the MPs were being humiliated.
Meanwhile, Khursheed Shah warned the government of going on a hunger strike in case 60,000 public servants were sacked from Pemra, EOBI, NADRA, Wapda and other bodies.
He urged the government to give new jobs instead as per the promises it made during their election campaign, saying, “don’t push me to go on a hunger strike and sit with protesters in front of the parliament house.”
Peace talks with TTP
The topic was touched upon only outside the parliament when Imran Khan told the media that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) only wanted to rid the country of America’s war, not impose Sharia at gunpoint.
Commenting on the success of the on-going peace talks, he said the interaction between the government and the TTP has made it clear which groups want peace and which do not.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2014.