–160 lawmakers vote in favour of Finance Bill, 119 against it
–Bilawal asks PM to ‘either resign or seek forgiveness from people for destroying country’s economy’
ISLAMABAD: After a long and noisy debate on the proposed Finance Bill for the fiscal year 2020-2021 on Monday, the National Assembly gave its nod to the federal budget which the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has been touting as “tax-free”.
160 MPs voted in favour of the bill while 119 opposed it.
The government had unveiled a coronavirus-influenced Rs7.13 trillion “tax-free” budget for the next fiscal year in a special session of the House held on June 13. While reading the budget document, Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar had emphasised that no new tax was being introduced in this budget.
Prime Minister Imran Khan joined the session halfway as the speaker listed each clause and amendment. During the voting, a large number of members of the treasury benches started thumping their desks and chanting slogans in favour of the premier.
Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, while taking to Twitter after the passing of the bill, said: “Tall claims made by the opposition and some sensationalist analysis by the media over the last few days and the result is that the 29-vote majority, through which last year’s budget was passed, has increased to 41 votes.”
Before the vote, speaking on the floor of the House, Azhar said that Monday’s session was meant to move amendments to the finance bill and pass it, yet the opposition was resorting to personal attacks.
He accused the opposition of shouting na manzoor (unacceptable) even before the budget was presented in the parliament.
“I expected there would be concrete arguments [today] but the opposition is making personal attacks — this is the level of their seriousness,” said Azhar.
‘SEEK FORGIVENESS OR RESIGN’:
The main opposition parties rounded on the government in general and Prime Minister Imran Khan in particular for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic among other things.
Addressing the House, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that the prime minister has “only two options — either ask forgiveness from the public and the assembly for destroying the economy and putting peoples’ lives in danger or resign and let someone responsible take charge”.
Bilawal said that due to the ruling party, the oil companies benefited from the hike in petroleum prices.
“The prime minister should apologise for destroying the country,” said the PPP chairman, adding that the ruling party has usurped the rights of the people.
“The prime minister should not take notice of anything. He took notice of medicines, they became expensive, when he (PM Imran) took notice of sugar and wheat crisis, then they also got costly,” he said.
The PPP leader said that the pilots and Civil Aviation Authority were character-assassinated at an international level.
“What sort of relief is putting people out of jobs?” he said before the House, adding that not making any addition to salaries and pensions is also an ‘injustice’.
Former defence minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Asif said that the PTI government needed to be stopped from causing further damage.
“They have increased the petrol price to Rs100 per litre. This will not only have an effect on petrol but they will now drop bombs on gas and electricity as well,” he said.
“This is because they have made commitments with liquidators to revise these tariffs. The budget is an interim document.”
In his fiery speech, Asif also criticised the prime minister for calling Osama Bin Laden a martyr. “May Allah save us from terrorists and their supporters.”
Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry, however, interrupted the former defence minister’s speech by asking him to cut it short.
“I will say such a thing about you that you will find it difficult to remain seated in this House,” said the PML-N lawmaker.
Following the debacle, Chaudhry asked the NA speaker to make Asif rescind his statement and apologise.
During his speech, Asif remarked on the terrorist attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi, saying the country is united against terrorism. He added the prime minister’s statement on OBL damaged the measures Pakistan has undertaken against terrorism over the years.
Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s (MMA) Maulana Asad Mehmood and PTI MNA Ali Amin Gandapur exchanged hot words over each other’s “character”. Digressing from the budget, Mehmood also criticised the government’s performance on other fronts, including raising the plight of Kashmiris.
OPP WALKS OUT OF SESSION:
The disgruntled opposition members walked out of the NA in protest during the speech of federal minister Murad Saeed.
After which, the NA speaker tasked Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to conciliate with the opposition members.
“When I end my speech, opposition will return by itself,” remarked Saeed on the opposition members, who were earlier chanting slogans against the budget.
FM Qureshi then took the floor to address the House, where he said that he wants to ask something from the opposition.
“Whenever Murad Saeed stands up to make a speech, why does the opposition run away?” said Qureshi, adding that the opposition had warned that it will not let the budget get approved.
During the address of the foreign minister, the opposition members came back to the session over which Qureshi sarcastically attributed their return to Saeed’s ‘psychic’ abilities.
The foreign minister, while denying the demand of the opposition, said that the prime minister will not resign as he has the mandate of the public.
Opposition parties on Sunday had presented a united front in rejecting the federal government’s budget for the new fiscal year, lambasting the ruling PTI for being unable to provide people with relief during the coronavirus pandemic.
Soon after the press conference of opposition leaders, the PTI ministers had termed the opposition stance an attempt to provoke people just for political point scoring.
Meanwhile, on Sunday evening, in an apparent move to muster support, Prime Minister Imran hosted a dinner reception where he asserted that his government would complete its five-year term.
As many as 14 MNAs belonging to the Imran-led PTI, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal), Pakistan Awami Muslim League (PAML) did not attend the dinner held on the lawns of PM House.
Due to the backdoor efforts of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, however, the missing 14 MNAs of the ruling party, including Haji Imtiaz and Nawab Karamat, turned up at the PM House after the dinner.
The PML-Q, despite its differences, decided in principle to vote for the passage of the federal budget 2021-21.
The decision to vote for the passage of the federal budget was taken at a PML-Q meeting, jointly presided over by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Pervaiz Elahi at their Zahoor Elahi Road residence, on Sunday.