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ISLAMABAD: The opposition lawmakers staged a strong protest in the National Assembly on Friday and gathered in front of the National Assembly speaker's dice, when he wanted to wrap up the debate on a calling attention notice on increase in the cost of electricity under the "pretext" of fuel price adjustment by the government.

The session, which was requisitioned on the request of the opposition to discuss power price hike and other issues, turned ugly after the NA speaker gave the floor to the Minister for Power, Omer Ayub, to wrap up the debate on the calling attention notice soon after Raja Pervez Ashraf of the PPP and Qaiser Sheikh of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) took part in the discussion.

The opposition MPs shouted anti-government slogans and said they would not allow the rulers to escape as it had crushed the masses under heavy inflation, exorbitant gas and electricity bills, adding the minister should be given the floor for concluding debate after discussion of the opposition members.

The NA speaker said he was conducting the house according to the rules, but the unruly opposition lawmakers were not ready to listen to anyone, bringing the house to a complete halt through anti-government slogans.

Speaking on a point of order, Ahsan Iqbal of the PML-N said it was a tradition of the house that a minister concluded debate only after all the speeches from the lawmakers were over, as that was the reason they moved calling attention notice.

Minister for Planning, Development and Special Nativities Asad Umar said, "Mr Speaker, you are running the house under rules. I am leaving a question for opposition. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz suggesting eggs are weighed and sold by kilograms. Are the eggs being sold in kilograms?"

While responding and debating on a motion regarding inflation, especially increase in the prices of essential food items as well as the petroleum products, gas and electricity, Minister for Power Omar Ayub Khan said the previous government set up expensive power plants, ignoring the indigenous sources of energy.

He said the government was focusing to exploit the potential of renewable energy to produce cheap electricity. He said the agreement signed with the IPPs would help save 800 billion rupees. He said the government was clearing the mess left by the previous regimes.

He said that capacity payment or compulsory charges had been reached at Rs642 billion, adding the price of one unit was Rs24 on solar energy plant and now the PTI government decreased by Rs6.5 per unit due to negotiations. He said that growth of Large Scale Manufacturing had been reached 41.5 percent of the GDP.

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said that no action had been taken by the government to check the prices of the essential items, adding increase in the prices of wheat, sugar, and cotton has not benefited the farmers but the middlemen and the hoarders.

He said PTI had contested the general elections on major issues: elimination of corruption, inflation, giving five million houses, and 10 million jobs to the people, adding the government should now move forward, and called for taking drastic measures to address these issues for ensuring proper relief to people.

The minister said the country was being mortgaged for getting loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), adding the price hike in wheat and sugar had benefited the mafia. He said that circular debt was Rs800 billion, when the PPP was in power and now it had reached Rs3 trillion.

The National Assembly began its session by offering Fateha for PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan, legendary mountaineer Ali Sadpara, and the security personnel martyred in the recent acts of terrorism. The NA speaker also directed the government to lay all ordinances promulgated after the prorogation of the last session in the house on Monday as per rules.

His directives came after PML-N's Shahid Khaqan Abbasi raised the issue on a point of order. Khaqan, while citing rules 170, said the government should lay all ordinances promulgated in absence of the session in the house. He pointed out that no ordinance was on today's agenda which was a violation of rule 170.

Responding to the point, Advisor to the PM on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan said the ordinance would be laid during the current session. Participating in the discussion on a calling attention notice regarding inflation, especially increase in the prices of essential food items as well as the petroleum products, gas and electricity, Qaiser Sheikh of the PML-N said the devaluation of currency had led to increase in the prices of essential commodities including petroleum products.

He said indirect taxes such as petroleum levy were affecting the poor segments of the society. He asked the government to promote the small and medium enterprises as per its commitment. Earlier, the annual reports of the State Bank of Pakistan on the state of Pakistan's economy for the years 2019-20 and 2020-21 were presented before the National Assembly.

The fiscal and debt policy statement for the year 2021 was also laid before the House. The documents were presented by Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Zain Qureshi.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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