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ISLAMABAD: Amidst hullabaloo triggered by opposition’s protest, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin on Tuesday laid a copy of Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2021 or mini-budget in Senate while the House passed four government bills related to the protection of the rights of women and children.

The House plunged into chaos on the first day of 317th session when the finance minister took the floor to lay a copy of the mini-budget. Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani failed to keep the House in order as the opposition senators paid no heed to his calls to “settle down on their seats.”

Quorum was pointed out thrice –finally resulting in the Senate sitting’s abrupt adjournment due to the lack of quorum. The opposition senators—especially those of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chanted anti-government slogans, accusing the government of introducing the mini-budget “in blind compliance with the dictates of IMF.”

“The government has mortgaged the entire country to the IMF,” said Sherry Rehman, the Parliamentary Leader of PPP in Senate. “Now there would be unprecedented inflation— alarming hike in electricity prices, fuel prices and those of edible items— that would make life difficult for a common man who is already living in unbearable pain due to the bad policies of this government. These rulers are striking shady deals with imperialist forces to prolong their days in power in blatant disregard to the miseries of common man,” she said.

Former chairman Senate Raza Rabbani from PPP said mini-budget was introduced on the behest of IMF (International Monetary Fund). “We need to know about all those decisions this government is taking to please the United States and IMF. The Parliament needs to know why this government is blindly taking dictation from the IMF. The nation cannot be left at the mercy of these rulers and their imperialist masters,” he added.

‘Mini-budget’: Delay of a few days doesn’t really matter: Tarin

The charged opposition senators staged walkouts from the House twice, for not being briefed on Reko Diq issue but returned to the House after being assured by the treasury members that government would brief them on the matter.

The chairman Senate referred the Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2021 to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs headed by Talha Mahmood from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F).

Sanjrani asked the senators to share their recommendations, if any, on the bill within three days. 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 since it is completely up to the National Assembly to either completely or partially accept those recommendations or hand them an outright rejection.

Article 73 of the constitution 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.”

Meanwhile, the House passed The Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Amendment) Bill 2021, The National Commission on the Rights of Child (Amendment) Bill 2021, The Juvenile Justice System (Amendment) Bill 2021 and The Islamabad Capital Territory Child Protection (Amendment) Bill 2021. All these four government bills were presented by Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari. The first bill provides for the protection of women from harassment at workplace while the other three bills provide for protection of the rights of children. The four bills were passed by National Assembly in November last year and require president’s final assent to become laws.

Earlier, in reply to a question asked by Mushtaq Ahmed from Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in Senate question hour, the government, in a written reply, stated that prime Minister Imran Khan took 31 official trips from 2018 to date on which over 200 million rupees were spent. The House is scheduled to meet again on Friday.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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