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ISLAMABAD: Senators from different political parties on Monday demanded greater role for Senate in the budget formulation as the upper house of the Parliament continued debate on the Finance Bill 2020.

Speaking on the floor of the House, Jamat-e-Islami (JI) chief Siraj-ul-Haq termed the Finance Bill 2020 a "jugglery of words," which, he said, was prepared in disregard to the ground realities. He termed the budget anti-poor that does not take into account the plight of a common man. Haq suggested that the parliamentary role of Senate be enhanced for an effective oversight on budget. "Every year we make speeches, the Senate session continues for several days and we finalize recommendations on the federal budget. But these recommendations are hardly followed. Our recommendations are not even considered, let alone being followed. This entire exercise is futile until and unless Senate has a real role in budgetary legislation," he said.

Mir Kabeer Shahi from National Party (NP) also demanded Senate's increased parliamentary role regarding federal budget and PSDP (Public Sector Development Programme) recommendations. "The Senate is the upper house of the Parliament and its input should be given utmost importance in budgetary legislation. Unless this is done, a sustainable and practicable strategy to prepare budget with thorough input from the Parliament keeping in view the existing realities cannot be mapped out," he said.

Behramand Tangi from Pakistan People's Party (PPP) held the federal government responsible for the alarming spread of coronavirus across the country. "The government was in deep slumber and coronavirus was spreading throughout Pakistan. Now, this government must show the sensibility and courage to admit its failure and take the opposition into the loop to formulate a collective strategy against coronavirus," he said. Likewise, the opposition parties need to be taken into the loop for finalizing budgetary recommendations with the active involvement of the Senate, Tangi said.

Others senators including Nuzhat Sadiq from Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Ateeq Shaikh from Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P), Jahanzeb Jamaldini from Balochistan National Party Mengal (BNP-M), Gul Bashra and Usman Kakar from Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), Zeeshan Khanzada and Muhammad Ayub from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) took part in discussion.

Constitutionally, the upper house of the Parliament can hold extensive debate on a money bill and devise recommendations accordingly but it has practically no role in budgetary legislation involving a money bill since it is completely up to the National Assembly to either completely or partially accept those recommendations or hand them an outright rejection.

Moreover, a money bill does not land in Senate or seek the upper house's nod for passage in order to become a law. It only needs to be passed by the NA with simple majority and then requires a ceremonial ascent from the President of Pakistan in order to become a law.

The Article 73 which deals with parliamentary business with respect to money bills reads, "(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in Article 70, a Money Bill shall originate in the National Assembly: Provided that simultaneously when a Money Bill, including the Finance Bill containing the Annual Budget Statement, is presented in the National Assembly, a copy thereof shall be transmitted to the Senate which may, within fourteen days, make recommendations thereon to the National Assembly.

(1A) The National Assembly shall, consider the recommendations of the Senate and after the bill has been passed by the Assembly with or without incorporating the recommendations of the Senate, it shall be presented to the President for assent." Senate would meet again on Wednesday.