Budget debate in NA: MQM asks govt not to overtax people

He called upon the government to take its allies on board to address the country’s economic and political issues

By Muhammad Anis
June 22, 2024
Senior Deputy Convener Muttahida Qaumi Movement- Pakistan Dr Farooq Sattar can be seen in this image. — Facebook/MQM Pakistan/file

ISLAMABAD: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Friday expressed dissatisfaction with the federal budget, terming it a traditional one.

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Taking part in the budget debate, MQM leader Dr. Farooq Sattar said his immediate comment on the budget was that it was a traditional budget no different from the budget being announced for decades.

“This is a traditional budget reflecting the status quo prevailing in the country for decades,” Farooq Sattar said, adding that they were allies of the government but there was no understanding that they would not speak the truth.

He said it would be a threat to the country’s existence and security if the government continued with presenting traditional budgets and status quo. He called upon the government to take its allies on board to address the country’s economic and political issues. He asked the government to avoid overtaxing and wrong-taxing, saying mere taxation will not ensure economic growth. “We will have to give space to the people for a respectable living and incentives to the exporters,” he said.

He also opposed increase in the petroleum levy terming it ‘Bhatta Tax’ and called for reduction in the electricity, gas and water tariffs. Farooq also expressed his concerns over the ever increasing indirect taxes — mainly the sales tax — saying the elite class was not ready to pay taxes. “The government will have to reduce the burden of taxes on the common man and middle class,” the MQM parliamentarian said. He said the government will also have to take risk by reducing the markup rate from 23 percent to single digit.

He suggested that 130 big districts of the country should be funded directly from the National Finance Commission (NFC) and they should not be left at the mercy of provinces.

The MQM parliamentarian there has been no revision of NFC award since 2008 saying that neither PDM-1 and PDM-2 Government nor four years regime of PTI revised NFC award.

He also objected to the strength of the prime minister’s entourage to foreign visits saying only a couple of ministers should accompany him.

He also asked the government to give a roadmap for debt servicing and address issue of circular debt.

He demanded allocation of heavy funds for Karachi, Faisalabad and other cities for water and other projects directly from NFC amount.

He said the increase in Capital Gains Tax would also have negative impacts on the stock market.

Farooq Sattar advised the government to devise such economic policies which could attract the local investors first.

The MQM member said unemployment and price hike had been on the rise while talented youths were leaving the country seeing no future in their homeland.

National Assembly ex-Speaker Asad Qaiser pointed out the finance minister’s absence from the house and asked the chair to give ruling that the finance minister and other responsible members of the cabinet should be present when debate on budget was taking place in the House.

Shazia Marri of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) said her party was registering token participation in the budget session. However, she said she supported Asad Qaiser’s stance that the government should take the debate seriously and ministers should be present in the House.

PTI-backed MNA Rana Atif said the finance minister’s statement during the budget speech that the economy was growing at a slow pace was itself a charge sheet against the incumbent government. He said foreign remittances and investment had gone down during the tenure of the first PDM government.

“The budget has been prepared on assumptions, as the government has no mandate and no vision,” he said.

Asia Naz Tanoli said whenever the PMLN came into power, it always gave priority to safeguarding the state’s interests instead of party politics.

She said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif conducted successful visits to various countries and launched the second phase of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). She expressed confidence that the country would make progress under the leadership of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. She also demanded the government to extend metro bus service from Rawalpindi to Taxila. Umar Farooq of SIC suggested that more relief should be given to the farmers and their produce should be procured at compatible rates. He also proposed immediate withdrawal of tax on packed milk. He said the proposed budget did not provide any relief to the common man and farmers who were already suffering due to the wheat scam.

Raja Khurram Shahzad Nawaz, a parliamentarian from Islamabad and dissident leader of PTI, suggested that better travel, education and health facilities should be provided to the residents of the federal capital. He also stressed the need to address the issue of potable water in Islamabad. He proposed withdrawal of the Capital Gains Tax on the real estate business in the Islamabad Capital Territory.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhatti urged all the politicians to unite and lodge joint efforts to steer the country out of crises. He observed that the officials of government always indulged in corruption but politicians were maligned. Sajid Khan, a PTI-backed candidate, proposed that all the 12 routes with Afghanistan be opened for trade and the undue taxes imposed on the merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa either by the federal or the provincial government should be withdrawn.

He said the people of ex-Fata districts did not want to receive any medals rather they wanted peace and education for their present and coming generations.

Shahram Khan suggested that the enhanced sales tax on pharmaceuticals should be taken back.

Jamal Shah Kakar said corruption and smuggling had become cancerous and the dream of development and progress could not be materialized without eliminating this menace.

He said funds should be allocated to address the issues of Balochistan pertaining to water, gas, electricity, infrastructure as well as law and order. He said more Nadra centres should be opened in Balochistan to facilitate the common people.

Earlier, Opposition Leader Omar Ayub Khan, on a point of order, condemned the imposition of Section 144 in Punjab on Friday.

He said the Punjab government imposed Section 144 when the PTI leadership gave a call for protest for the release of Imran Khan. He also feared arrest of the party’s parliamentarians when they would reach their constituencies to lead the protest rallies.

Deputy Speaker Ghulam Mustafa Shah who was chairing the proceedings, said it was a provincial subject and hopefully the provincial government would look into it.

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