Miftah to present budget as Rana Afzal gets sidelined 

ISLAMABAD: Contrary to reports that the State Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, Rana Afzal Khan, will present the budget for being a member of the assembly and holding the portfolio of a minister, the Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue, Miftah Ismail is set to present the budget in the assembly on April 27.

According to officials at the Ministry of Finance, the ministry has examined and discussed the legal status of an advisor for presenting the budget in the assembly. “Since Miftah Ismail also enjoys the status of minister, there is no legal hindrance in presenting the budget in the assembly. At least five advisors of the prime minister can make such an appearance in the assembly,” the officials said.

In reply to a query about who will present the budget, Miftah Ismail also confirmed that he would be delivering the budget speech in the assembly.

According to the officials, Miftah can present the budget for the next fiscal year under the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business 2007 for the National Assembly. An advisor with the status of Minister or Minister-in-Charge is allowed to present budget and added that there is a 99 percent chance that next fiscal year’s budget will be presented by Ismail.

According to ‘Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly’, the budget shall be presented by the Minister for Finance or, in his absence, any other Minister authorised by the leader of the House, in this chapter referred to as the Minister-in-Charge’. On December 26, 2017, the Cabinet Division notified Miftah Ismail as the adviser to Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs with the status of Federal Minister.

The incumbent government will present the last budget of its tenure on April 27, 2018. However, there were speculations about the person who would be selected to present the budget. Earlier, former Finance minister Ishaq Dar had delivered five consecutive budget speeches in the parliament. 

According to insiders, despite all wishes and efforts to be on the driving seat at the ministry, Rana Afzal could not convince the prime minister for allowing him to present the 6th budget of the ruling party. Since Miftah Ismail enjoys the support of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, his decision /directives are valued and given due importance in the ministry of finance.

Interestingly, sources claim, both Miftah and Rana have directed the officials of the ministry to prepare a budget speech. “As the state minister has almost been sidelined in key affairs of the ministry, the adviser to PM is now in the driving seat of the ministry,” said the sources.

Earlier it was claimed that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has given the go ahead to State Minister Rana Afzal to deliver the budget speech in parliament.

As the budget preparation process is largely being supervised by Miftah Ismail, he is all set to deliver the speech.

Insiders claim that State Minister Rana Afzal, who, earlier, as parliamentary secretary on finance, has been handling standing committees and queries in the parliament, is unhappy over the Prime Minister’s secretariat’s tilt towards Miftah. Rana, earlier, had also held a meeting with PM Abbasi and complained of being ignored in the budget speech despite being an elected member of the parliament, representing the finance ministry. He as insiders say, however, could not convince the PM, as Khaqan Abbasi, still considers Rana as a close aide of former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

Later, Rana Afzal reportedly discussed this matter with former PM Nawaz Sharif and the ousted PM had reportedly directed PM Abbasi to let Rana deliver the speech.

It is pertinent to mention here that presently, four high ups of ruling government including the PM, are looking after the matters of finance and economy.

Ghulam Abbas
The writer is a member of the staff at the Islamabad Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]
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