ISLAMABAD: Amid ruckus and uproar by opposition parties, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin on Thursday laid the Finance (supplementary) Bill, 2021 and State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in National Assembly.
Despite claims of blocking the ‘mini-budget’ and SBP autonomy bill, the opposition leader in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif remained conspicuously absent.
However, the joint opposition staged a protest against the mini-budget and the bill, saying it is being done on the dictation of International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Soon after National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser took up the agenda, the opposition parties objected over extension of a bunch of ordinances, saying the constitution, as well as, a verdict by the Supreme Court of Pakistan categorically say a lapsed ordinance – whether it is lapsed by one day or more – cannot be extended.
However, their objection fell on deaf ears, and the chair proceeded with the agenda. An intense protest against the ordinances escalated into fisticuffs between opposition lawmaker Shagufta Jumani and PTI MNA Ghazala Saifi.
The House also adopted the resolution seeking extension in The Election (Third Amendment) Ordinance for 120 days. The other ordinances include, “The Federal Government Properties Management Authority Ordinance, 2021”, “The Elections (Third Amendment) Ordinance, 2021”, “The Public Properties (Removal of Encroachment) Ordinance, 2021”, “The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021”, “The Pakistan Food Security Flow and Information Ordinance, 2021” and “The Tax Laws (Third Amendment) Ordinance, 2021”.
With this the speaker, gave the floor to Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin to introduce the SBP autonomy bill and the Finance (supplementary) Bill, 2021 in the house.
The minister quickly proceeded, leaving the enraged opposition MPs with no option but to encircle the dais of the NA speaker, holding placards and chanting anti-government slogans.
Speaker Qaiser said that the bill will not be forwarded to the standing committee concerned under Article 122 of the Constitution.
Speaking on a point of order, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) parliamentary leader in NA Khawaja Asif said that the government had violated the constitution by presenting an ordinance that had already lapsed and expired. “You’re giving the SBP’s control to the IMF…have mercy on the people of Pakistan. Don’t sell out Pakistan. You have allowed to loot the country for the last three years,” he regretted.
He urged the House not to let Pakistan surrender its sovereignty, adding surrendering Pakistan’s economic sovereignty is more dangerous than the “fall of Dhaka”.
He said the whole nation was ashamed of what was happening in the parliament, adding the way NA speaker is talking of a ruling about ending the ordinances is against the constitution. However, Babar Awan from treasury side responded that the assembly proceedings were being carried out under the prescribed rules and procedures. The speaker also ruled that the resolution for extension in the election amendment ordinance was legitimate.
Responding to the opposition tirade against the government, the Minister for Planning and Development, Asad Umar, said that the opposition had been trying to “scare the nation” by making a hue and cry over the SBP Amendment Bill.
“The difference between them and us is that when they work to curb dengue, they have to advertise about it, themselves. But when we work to curb Covid-19, international forums such as the World Economic Forum, etc., praise PTI-led government,” he added.
Reacting to Asif’s remarks about surrendering the sovereignty of Pakistan, he said: “A Pakistani leader is speaking about surrendering the country’s sovereignty. I call that shameful as they just forgot the work permits of the Gulf countries when they were ministers back then”.
He also lambasted the opposition for criticising the government over national security, saying those who invited Narendra Modi to Lahore, sent him gifts, etc., should keep this in mind that “we are the ones who brought down their plane, caught the pilot, and sent him back by giving him a fantastic cuppa tea”.
Pakistan People’s Party's (PPP)Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said the mini-budget will make life more difficult for the people, who are already crushed under skyrocketing inflation.
He further complained that when the bill was presented today, even then the opposition was not being heard. He said the way Asad Umar responded to Khawaja Asif’s speech was pathetic.
Maulana Asadur Rehman of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) urged the speaker to reject Thursday’s proceedings so that the opposition and the treasury members could present arguments on the matters taken up in the session afresh.
He also demanded the speaker to give a ruling against demolition of a mosque in Karachi, but the speaker turned down his request saying there could be no ruling against the Supreme Court verdict.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the opposition had the right to present its point of view, but they have no guts to listen to the government’s response.
As Qureshi continued to speak, the opposition pointed out the quorum in the House.
Responding to the opposition’s objection, the speaker adjourned the session till December 31.
Earlier in the day, a meeting of the parliamentary groups of parties included in the ruling alliance led by the PTI on the issue of the bill’s passage was also held.
Prime Minister Imran Khan was dismissive of the opposition’s claim that the government was in danger, saying “they make such statements every three months.”
In a brief interaction with reporters inside the parliament’s premises following the cabinet meeting, the premier also played down the chances of the PML-N leader and his rival Nawaz Sharif returning to the country, saying: “We also used to hear in the past about [Nawaz Sharif’s] return when he was in Saudi Arabia, but he only returned after a deal”.
When asked about a statement of the opposition leader in the National Assembly, Imran taunted that Shehbaz Sharif’s speeches were more a “job application” than anything else.
Later talking to journalists, the foreign minister said that the finance minister said that had responded to the queries of the opposition lawmakers before bringing the bill to the house.
He said that there is no truth in what the opposition says about the SBP autonomy bills.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021