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Web Desk
June 29, 2020

NA approves federal budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 amid war of words with opposition


Web Desk
Mon, Jun 29, 2020

The bill was passed by assembly despite opposition's vow to not let it sail through the House. Photo: File

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Monday approved the second budget of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government for the fiscal year 2020-21 despite opposition's protests.

Federal Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar had presented a Rs7.14 trillion budget for fiscal 2020-21 on June 12.

Earlier, senior opposition leaders from the PPP, PML-N and the JUI-F had described the budget as an "enemy of the people". Reacting to the budget, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif had predicted that inflation and unemployment would surge as a result of it.

Today's session was also  attended by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The PM made the entry when the clause-wise amendments to the Finance Bill began in order to sail it through the House.

As the process began, the NA speaker said that any amendment to remove an entire clause will not be acceptable.

The speaker made the statement after PPP’s Shazia Mari proposed amendment to remove an entire clause.

Bilawal Bhutto demands PM’s resignation

Earlier in his speech, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan in his speech in the NA, saying that the premier should apologise for destroying the economy.

While addressing the House, Bilawal said that the PM has two options; either he works alongside all the political parties and strive for the betterment of the country, or he resigns and goes home.

Bilawal said that due to the ruling party, the oil companies benefited from the hike in petroleum prices.

“The prime minister should apologise for destroying the country,” said the PPP chairman, adding that the ruling party has usurped the rights of the people.

“The prime minister should not take notice of anything. He took notice of medicines, they became expensive, when he (PM Imran) took notice of sugar and wheat crisis, then they also got costly,” he said.

The PPP leader said that the pilots and Civil Aviation Authority were character-assassinated at an international level.

“What sort of relief is putting people out of jobs?” he said before the House, adding that not making any addition to salaries and pensions is also an ‘injustice’.

Khawaja Asif, Fawad Chaudhry exchange heated words in NA

Meanwhile, PML-N leader Khawaja Asif also addressed the House, where he had a verbal spat with Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry.

In his fiery speech, Asif criticised the prime minister for calling Osama Bin Laden a martyr. “May Allah save us from terrorists and their supporters.”

Chaudhry, however, interrupted the former defence minister’s speech by asking him to cut it short.

“I will say such a thing about you that you will find it difficult to remain seated in this House,” said the PML-N lawmaker.

Following the debacle, Chaudhry asked the NA speaker to make Asif rescind his statement and apologise.

During his speech, Asif remarked on today’s terrorist attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi, saying the country is united against terrorism.

He added the prime minister’s statement on OBL damaged the measures Pakistan has undertaken against terrorism over the years.

Opposition walks out of session during Murad Saeed’s speech

The disgruntled opposition members also walked out of the NA in protest during the speech of federal minister Murad Saeed.

After which, the NA speaker tasked Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to conciliate with the opposition members.

“When I end my speech, opposition will return by itself,” remarked Saeed on the opposition members, who were earlier chanting slogans against the budget.

FM Qureshi then took the floor to address the House, where he said that he wants to ask something from the opposition.

“Whenever Murad Saeed stands up to make a speech, why does the opposition run away?” said Qureshi, adding that the opposition had warned that it will not let the budget get approved.

During the address of the foreign minister, the opposition members came back to the session over which Qureshi sarcastically attributed their return to Saeed’s 'psychic' abilities.

The foreign minister, while denying the demand of the opposition, said that the prime minister will not resign as he has the mandate of the public.

National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser adjourned the session of the assembly after the passage of the bill and summoned it for 11 am tomorrow.

The new fiscal year's budget was unveiled by the government earlier this month, the treasury benches have claimed that its a tax-free budget with a wide fiscal deficit for 2020/21, it proposes no increase in salaries of its employees and pensioners, rise in levies on luxury products, and tax relief for cement sector, sanitary wears and locally-manufactured mobile phones.

The total outlay of the federal budget 2020/21 is Rs7.136 trillion, a little expansionary to get economic recovery as already the economy has contracted in the outgoing fiscal year for the first time since 1952 due to COVID-19.

Tax revenues have been targeted at Rs5.464 trillion against the revised estimates of Rs4.208 trillion for the outgoing fiscal, depicting an increase of 29.8 percent. Of total tax collection, the FBR’s collections target has been increased by 27 percent to Rs4.963 trillion against the revised estimates of Rs3.91 trillion.

Increase in tax will put more burden on existing taxpayers. Besides, the development budget has been reduced over the last year.