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ISLAMABAD: The opposition leader in the National Assembly, Shehbaz Sharif, on Tuesday said that his party is ready to support the recently-introduced mini-budget, if the government withdraws the heavy taxes imposed in it. Initiating debate on “The Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2021” in the National Assembly, he said that it was disgusting to see that the country is being mortgaged to its hilt for the sake of bucks, which will certainly lead the country to bankruptcy.

He flayed that it was his party, which proposed the charter of democracy to steer the country out of the prevailing economic crisis, but the government did not pay any heed to it. In the same breath, he continued that it was his party again which fully supported the legislation being done to get the country out of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s grey list.

“A nation with a begging bowl in one hand and atom bomb on the other is like you are groping in the dark unless you make your country economically strong. Unless you stop begging, I’m afraid to say even the nukes of the country are not safe, for which we made every effort to safeguard the security of the country,” he added.

“The finance minister had said that Imran Khan would stand up to the IMF [...] he had said that a mini-budget would not be introduced and that there would be a tax-free budget. But I proved correct merely after seven months about what I’d said on June 12, 2021,” he added.

He said that taxes worth Rs350 billion were being imposed on the people who were already crushed under skyrocketing inflation, adding the farmers are unable to afford fertilisers hence, the agriculture sector of country is also being destroyed by the government.

Shehbaz Sharif demands PM Imran’s resignation

Sharif said that it is not only the country which is at stake due to poor managers, but the security of the country is also at stake as everything is going downward, reason the PTI did completely the opposite to what it had promised before coming into power.

The PML-N leader also opposed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Amendment Bill, 2021, which promises complete autonomy for the central bank and is one of the requirements Pakistan has to meet under the programme agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in July 2019. If passed, the legislation will pave the way for the disbursement of a $1bn tranche.

He warned that the opposition would protest in the house and on the streets, if the government tried to bulldoze such a bill, adding “the government is selling Pakistan’s economy and freedom for the sake of $1bn”.

In a hard-hitting response to Sharif, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said that the opposition leader, Sharif, must not forget that it was his government, which sealed a deal with IMF four times, followed by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which availed the IMF loaning facility for seven time.

He recalled that it was 2018 when Miftah Ismail, the then finance minister of the PML-N agreed with him in the same hall when he said the economy of the country was drowning.

“These were the streams of milk and honey that they left behind…oh come on, it was no but you who made claims of recovering billions of dollars from Zardari, but all ended up in wheeling dealing when you came into power,” he said, while referring to his tirade against PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari before 2013 general elections.

With this, Sharif had to leave the house as the PTI minister kept counting the controversies with regard to economy, development, corruption, and businesses of Nawaz Sharif’s sons in London.

Umar sarcastically remarked that the PTI did not opt for a charter of economy with the PML-N as it did not want to learn the corruption tactics like money laundering and the TT transfer of national wealth, etc, which are the reason for the notoriety of the PML-N and Co.

Amid clapping and desk thumping by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin and other PTI members, Umar said that “we thought the opposition is only nervous and sweats to see Imran Khan but now Tarin is also getting on their nerves”.

He made the remarks after Sharif said that he is optimistic that Tarin who is a seasoned economist may step down as he could also be upset over the heavy taxes being imposed in the mini-budget.

Umar said that Sharif claimed that his party was ready to support the government on bills pertaining to the FATF.

“Just to remind him and the nation, the FATF had placed Pakistan in the grey list during the PML-N’s tenure,” he said.

“And, I challenge them on this floor ... they had opposed the [FATF] bills,” he added.

He concluded his speech by comparing economic data from the PML-N’s tenure with that of the PTI government, saying that the country’s economic growth year this year would surpass the estimated target.

The other members from opposition benches also lambasted the government for what they called anti-poor and IMF-dictated mini-budget, which would do nothing but further paralyse the country which is near economic collapse.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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