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Print

Opposition steps up attacks on govt’s economic policies

  • Points at increase in gas infrastructure cess and inflation
  • On the other end, treasury benches heap praise on govt for 'people-friendly budget'
Updated 20 Jun 2021

ISLAMABAD: As expected, the treasury benches on Saturday heaped praise on the government for a “people-friendly budget”, while the opposition MPs called the budget 2021-22 as the “worst” to be experienced by the masses. The National Assembly continued the debate on the budget 2021-22 with presiding officer Amjad Ali Khan in the chair.

Taking part in the budget debate, Khurram Dastgir Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) questioned what the government had done with a huge sum of Rs 15,591 billion, which it had borrowed so far. He accused prime minister Imran Khan of “cutting the ribbons of projects” that were actually inaugurated by the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif. “During the government of this prime minister [Imran Khan], India further tightened its control on Kashmir, which is quite shameful,” he lamented. He continued that people of the country do not ask for olive as they need wheat and cotton, adding the people don’t need alms as they are looking for honourable livelihoods.

Making a hard-hitting speech punctuated by poetic verses, he said gas infrastructure development cess (GIDC) has been increased from Rs15 billion to Rs130 billion in the FY2021-22 budget. He said the current development expenditure has been increased by 17 percent in the budget. Not only has the recovery of gas and power bills gone down, the incidence of theft has increased, he added. The PML-N leader said there has been a significant increase in the prices of essential commodities including wheat flour, sugar, pulses, and ghee under the present government.

He said there will be further inflation as a result of the new budget. Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid, in his budget speech, said that all the political parties should sit together for electoral reforms, “while keeping their bitterness aside.”

He said the political parties should also discuss the regional security situation, adding that 88 percent of the work on the fencing of the border with Afghanistan has been completed, while the remaining work will be completed soon. He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan has made utmost efforts to take the economic situation towards improvement, adding that “it goes to the credit of the prime minister for launching work on Dasu and Diamer-Bhasha dams projects.”

He said the projects will not only help irrigate our land but also provide cheap electricity.

About Interior Ministry, the minister said that “we are introducing e-passports, while online visas are now being issued.” He said the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) offices will be established at every tehsil headquarters to facilitate people. Participating in the debate, Abdul Qadir Patel of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said the growth figures presented by the government for various sectors of the economy are not based on facts.

He was critical of the government's policies saying these have resulted in higher inflation and unemployment, adding that inflation should be immediately controlled.

Niaz Ahmad Jakhar of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said that utmost effort has been made in the budget to provide relief to the masses. He said it is also unprecedented that interest-free loans will be given to the downtrodden segments of society. He said the government has put the economy on a sound footing and the situation will further improve in the days to come.

In his budget speech, Shehryar Khan Afridi, who is also chairman Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir, urged the opposition parties not to misuse the Kashmir dispute for their petty personal and political objectives. He said that All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) has requested the Pakistani political parties not to use the Kashmir cause for petty political gains as it breaks the hearts and resolve of millions of Kashmiris fighting to free Jammu and Kashmir from illegal Indian occupation.

He said that due to the wise strategy adopted by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan is swiftly defeating the Covid-19 pandemic. Afridi blamed the past governments for “making secret deals” with the US on drone strikes. “Today no one can dare think of conducting a drone attack in Pakistan. Who blocked the Pashtuns’ ID cards? During the past regimes, the governments used to portray Pashtuns as terrorists in the mock exercises. Who used to call Rao Anwar as his favorite son? Who blocked Pashtuns from entering the NADRA offices,” argued Afridi.

He asked the PPP to respond as to why the Sindh government, despite making a commitment, is not giving three percent share from its (Sindh’s) divisible pool for the development of the erstwhile FATA. He asked: “Why the PML-N and the PPP governments did not take any measure to secure the sovereignty of the country?” He said the PTI government took action against land mafia and got vacated millions of acres of state land from mafia thugs.

He said that 33,000 kanals of state land was recovered from a property tycoon in Islamabad during an anti-encroachment drive. “Imran Khan's government took direct action against 1,000 Benami properties. The then prime minister Nawaz Sharif did not utter a single word for Kashmir but he was fond of having meetings with Narendra Modi and Sajan Jindal for his “petty personal gains”. Sharif also made baseless claims about our missile programme,” he added.

Afridi said that Shahid Khaqan Abbasi hurled threats at the National Assembly speaker but he did not say a single word when he was “mistreated” at the US airport when he was the prime minister of Pakistan.

Accusing Maulana Fazlur Rehman of using politics for petty personal gains, he said the cleric had formed a united front of parties, including PTI, against Nawaz Sharif’s government in the name of development agenda of southern districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. “But hours after the formation of front was announced, Fazlur Rehman struck a deal with Nawaz Sharif and got Akram Durrani installed as federal minister. Later, the Maulana never talked about the development of southern districts of KP,” he claimed.

He said that the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif did not mention the name of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav for four years. He said for the first time in history, development is underway in the southern districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa today and a 350-km-long motorway is being built for the development of the southern districts, which will change the fate of the people of province’s southern districts.

Mohsin Dawar of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) said the minimum wage of 20,000 rupees announced in the budget is not sufficient and this should be reviewed. He said promises made for the development of tribal districts should be fulfilled. Khurram Shahzad of the PTI lauded the government’s finance team for presenting a “pro-people” budget amid a difficult situation posed by the Covid-19. He said relief has been given to different sectors, including farmers and industrialists, in the budget. Iftakhar Ahmed Babar of the PPP demanded the government set up a university in Muzafargarh district.

He also called for enhancing allocations for the health and education sectors. Shaheen Naz of the PTI, Sajid Mehdi of the PML-N, Rukhsana Naveed of the PTI, Khursheed Ahmad Junejo of the PPP, Mehboob Shah of the PTI, Zahra Wadood of the PML-N, Rana Qasim Noon of the PTI, Ghulam Ali Talpur of the PPP, Fazal Muhammad Khan of the PTI, Nadeem Abbas of the PML-N, Riaz Mazari of the PTI, Salahuddin Ayubi of the JUI-F, and others also took part in the budget debate.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021