Sunday July 21, 2024

Shehbaz-Bilawal huddle: PPP criticises govt's 'unilateralism'

PM Shehbaz assures Bilawal of addressing PPP's 'reservations on budget, PSDP, Sindh projects'

By Ashraf Malkham & Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai & Waqar Satti
June 20, 2024
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari (left) and PM Shehbaz Sharif in this undated photo. — Reuters
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari (left) and PM Shehbaz Sharif in this undated photo. — Reuters

Ahead of federal budget’s approval from parliament, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif held a crucial meeting with disgruntled Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari after the key ally 'complained about the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) unilaterist attitude in decision-making'.

The top leaders of the ruling coalition partners — the PML-N and the PPP — held a key meeting in Islamabad after the latter lodged a token protest during the National Assembly session last week in which Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb unveiled the budget 2024-25.

Sources told Geo News that Bilawal apprised PM Shehbaz about “reservations” on behalf of his party which is the key ally of the incumbent PML-N administration in the Centre. Although the PPP has not become part of the federal cabinet, the party supported the PML-N-led in forming government after the February 8 elections.

During the meeting, the insiders said Bilawal voiced his reservations over the federal government's "non-seriousness" towards different projects in the PPP-led Sindh.

They added that the PPP chief complained to the premier about its administration for not taking his party's confidence in decision-making, including the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) and budget proposals.

It also emerged that both sides discussed the PPP’s inclusion in the federal cabinet and power-sharing in Punjab during the meeting which was also attended by senior leaders.

Federal ministers Ishaq Dar, Rana Sanaullah, Attaullah Tarar, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Ali Pervaiz Malik and Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb attended the huddle.

From PPP's side, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Khursheed Shah and Sherry Rehman participated in the meeting.

As per the sources, the PPP chief also assured the premier that his party will help the federal government in passage of the federal budget from parliament.

Commenting on the meeting, PPP leader Senator Saleem Mandviwalla told Geo News that the Bilawal-led party agreed to support the PML-N-led federal government to the extent of the Finance Bill 2024-25 and it is in contact with the finance minister.

However, both sides were still due to discuss some political matters, he added.

PML-N's 'solo flight' concerns PPP

Earlier, the PPP censured the PML-N-led government in the Centre for taking a "solo flight" and not taking it into confidence over the budget.

The Bilawal-led party had even announced boycotting the budget session last week — a decision the party recanted after Deputy Prime Minister Senator Dar held multiple meetings with the PPP's top leaders to convince them otherwise last week on June 12.

For the ruling party, it is important to have the PPP's support as the PM Shehbaz-led coalition government does not have the luxury of a parliamentary majority to help it pass the budget smoothly.

Last week, The News reported that the premier has decided to expand the federal cabinet inviting the PPP to join the government formally, a move that Bilawal's party has so far turned down and with the stance recently confirmed by PPP leader and provincial minister Nasir Hussain Shah as well.

IMF guidelines in budget

The government has less than two weeks to get parliamentary approval as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has told the Pakistani authorities to include its guidelines in the budget.

Pakistan has approached the Washington-based lender for a new bailout package while the taxation measures announced by Federal Minister Mohammad Aurangzeb in the budget have been rejected by the trade bodies.

However, the government has clarified that it has to meet the revenue targets to get the loan from the IMF.