ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Shahbaz Sharif, has rejected the “IMF-dictated” federal budget, but dangled the possibility of a “charter of economy” with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.
Speaking uninterrupted on the floor of the National Assembly after days of protests from the treasury benches, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president said the budget — the first presented by the PTI government — was “anti-people”.
Shahbaz provided a stark simile of the budget, saying it “is like a ruthless sword slitting the common man’s throat and the farmer’s livelihood”. “The PTI had vowed to create a Naya Pakistan but are instead pushing the country towards economic suicide with their inefficient measures.”
The opposition leader said the world “does not trust a misleading ruler”, calling Prime Minister Imran Khan a “selected Prime Minister who keeps on lying”.
Shahbaz said the federal budget was “made by the IMF” and their representatives had been appointed on important posts in financial institutions of the country. They (newly appointed heads of financial institutions) have no idea about the problems to the country’s people and they would only follow the policies and tracks of others.”
He said tax or revenue collection target of Rs5,500 billion set by this government was not achievable because they failed to collect Rs 4,000 billion during the last financial year. About claims of imposing indirect taxes by the previous government, he said this government itself would receive 70 per cent taxes out of set target of Rs5,500 billion by imposing indirect taxes.
He urged the government to “stop day dreaming and adopt policies for the welfare of the people”. Not even a single project had been started for Sindh and unveiling the plaque of development project was the only its target instead of focusing on the completion of project, he added.
He said the government had mentioned in the budget to privatise two power projects which reflected the efficiency of these projects and declined allegations of kickbacks in the said projects.
The opposition leader said cuts had been made in the education and health sectors in this federal budget while Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project could not be completed so far despite taking loans from foreign financial institutions instead of a grant’s offer by the federal government at the time.
He said metro bus tracks in three cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad, Multan and Lahore of more than 100 kilometres have been completed comparatively at much lesser amount than the metro track in Peshawar.
Shahbaz said on very first day of Parliament, he offered the government a charter similar to the Charter of Democracy. “The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was prepared for a charter of economy with the PTI, but our sincere efforts were rejected,” he added.
On this, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser asked whether it could still be discussed. In response, Shahbaz said: “It’s never too late. It is for Pakistan,” adding any charter could be signed for Pakistan, but it needed sincerity and seriousness.
He said members from both sides of the aisle in Parliament should play a positive role to make the national economy stronger, saying a collective strategy was required. Qaiser assured Shahbaz that he would play his role in this regard.
Shahbaz said the PML-N inherited a power crisis when it came into power in 2013. There were days when there was no electricity for 20 hours a day but this crisis was overcome through hard work, he maintained.
He also spoke about the cooperation of brotherly countries with Pakistan including China. He said China invested $60 billion through CPEC in the country while 11,000 megawatts of electricity was generated during the tenure of PML-N.
He said the people had great expectations from this budget but they got nothing from it. “Whenever a budget was presented [in the past], some segments were happy, others were unhappy. This is the first instance that the poor are strongly protesting,” Shahbaz added.
He also spoke about the economic situation of the country and the meteoric rise of the dollar rate. “The prices of edibles increased while the environment for industrialists is also challenging,” he added. About the Neelum-Jhelum Hydro project, he said its actual cost increased from $800 million to $5 billion during the tenure of Pervez Musharraf.—News Desk/APP