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Thursday July 18, 2024

Senate faces uproar as opposition rejects budget

Opposition charged that anti-people budget and proposed additional taxes would add to people’s miseries

By Mumtaz Alvi
June 13, 2024
An inside view of the Senate building. — State media/File
An inside view of the Senate building. — State media/File

ISLAMABAD: The opposition lodged a noisy protest in the Senate on Wednesday, rejecting the budget and additional taxes, as Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb laid before the house a copy of the Finance Bill 2024–25 containing the annual budget statement.

Chairman of the Senate Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, who chaired the brief sitting, announced that the house would begin discussing budgetary proposals for the next financial year. Opposition lawmakers, already on their feet, charged that the anti-people budget and proposed additional taxes would add to the people’s miseries.

After a copy of the finance bill was laid before the House, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Shibli Faraz, stood to declare that the budget heavily taxed people already facing financial hardships. As he criticised the government, the chairman interrupted him and asked if this was his budget speech or if he intended to deliver it the following day. “No, it is in protest against the plan to impose more taxes on the people, as taxes will break their backs,” Faraz replied. He remarked, “Especially when their mandate has not been accepted, we, on behalf of the people of Pakistan, lodge our protest and condemn this high-handedness of the government, which is pushing the people against the wall.”

Shibli claimed that this was the worst economic scenario the country had witnessed over the last 50 years. Referring to the new budget proposals, he wanted to know what plans ‘this unrepresentative government’ has for the people, the economy, and future of the country.

The Leader of the House in the Senate, Muhammad Ishaq Dar, rose to defend the budget proposals, contending that it was a matter of balancing budget resources against revenues. He said they would welcome constructive criticism of the budget proposals and noted that the opposition leader had set a new precedent by criticising the budget even before the formal commencement of the budget discussion. “The government will welcome his budget speech and is ready to listen to his points and respond. But making such sweeping statements is not appropriate,” he maintained amid slogan chanting by the opposition legislators against the government and the proposed budget.

The chairman sought the recommendations of members on the Finance Bill 2024 by Friday noon (June 14), making it clear that no recommendations would be entertained after that. He noted that proposals regarding the Finance Bill shall be sent to the Committee on Finance and Revenue, while recommendations pertaining to the PSDP will be sent to the Standing Committee on Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives. Gilani said the Senate would start discussion on the finance bill Thursday, with the opening speech to be made by the opposition leader. He also asked the parliamentary leaders to provide the names of speakers from their respective parties.