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Monday July 22, 2024

Govt under fire from allies, opposition over budget

House continued general discussion on the federal budget till late at night starting from 11am

By Muhammad Anis
June 25, 2024
Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb is presenting budget 2024-25 in the National Assembly on June 12, 2024. — APP
Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb is presenting budget 2024-25 in the National Assembly on June 12, 2024. — APP

ISLAMABAD: The members from the opposition benches and the government’s allies continued to grill the regime in the National Assembly for presenting a federal budget with a focus on revenue generation with an increase in taxes.

Abdul Qadir Gilani of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) said that the PML-N was not a popular party but the PPP leadership was still supporting it for the sake of national interest. “The PML-N leadership will have to do something out of the box like announce a new Saraeki Province, if it wants to improve its popularity,” he said adding the popularity graph of PML-N was going down fast. Gilani maintained that the PPP leadership would not accept a reduction in the development budget for South Punjab from 35 percent to 20 percent. “We demand development budget for Multan, Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur divisions equal to that of Lahore division and restoration of the secretariat of South Punjab,” he said. Abdul Qadir son of former prime minister and sitting Senate Chairman Yousaf Raza Gilani, in his speech said that Benazir Bhutto supported the PML-N through the Charter of Democracy and would again support them in the Charter of Economy but he regretted that the government’s focus in Public Sector Development Programme is Lahore division alone.”It has allocated 3,000 schemes for the development of Lahore division,” he said.

The PTI parliamentarian Shaikh Waqas Akram came down harshly on the government for presenting a tax-based federal budget saying how taxes would be collected taxes when there is no income. He said the increasing taxes was all set to further increase the problems of an already squeezed middle class. Akram warned the government that the system would be wrapped up because of its failure to deliver and not because of the opposition.”We are already suffering and you will also join our ranks because of your failures,” he added. Observing that the PPP parliamentarians in their speeches had stated that the federal budget did not reflect the aspirations of the masses. “I wish they stick to their words and not support the budget,” he said.

He also criticized the government for withdrawing subsidies on health, poultry and other sectors. Talking about the mechanism of electricity tariffs, he said a consumer using 200 units was paying Rs3,083 but would be forced to pay over Rs 8,071 if he used 201 units which was not justified.”It means that the cost of one unit above 200 units is nearly Rs 5,000 which is too much,” he said. He also opposed an increase in taxes on the salaried class saying the government withdrew a 25 percent exemption for teachers and researchers in their salaries.

The PPP Parliamentarian Agha Rafiullah expressed concerns over reports that no new gas connections would be given in Balochistan and Sindh provinces during the upcoming fiscal year. Talking about the minimum monthly wage fixed at Rs 37,000, he asked how could anyone manage his house with such a small amount. He asked the government to implement the directives of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif issued in his first tenure for the establishment of a university in his constituency. Without naming Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, Rafiullah said should he also change the name of his district to Narowal to get development schemes. The PPPP MNA asked the opposition parties not to oppose an operation aimed at bringing peace to the country.

Mahmood Khan Achakzai of Pakhtunkhwa Mill Awami said that neither Balochis nor Pakhtuns were colonies of anybody and strongly opposed operation in the tribal areas. He said Pakistan would continue to suffer till the rights of the people of an area or a province on its resources are accepted. He said that the Senate of Pakistan does not enjoy such an authority which is enjoyed by the lower House of the Parliament (National Assembly). He said that Parliament as the representative of the people of Pakistan, has the authority to make decisions for their welfare.

Mir Ghulam Ali Talpur said agriculture is supporting the economic growth rate. He opposed the imposition of taxes on agriculture inputs including tractors, fertilizers and pesticides. Muhammad Iqbal Khan said the true potential of the blue economy should be explored to take the country forward. He emphasised that the fishermen should be equipped with the latest tools and equipment as well as training. Sheikh Aftab Ahmed said the government will get the budget passed with consensus. He said the PML-N has rendered sacrifices for democracy and called for collective efforts to steer the country in the right direction. Muhammad Usman Badini said the resolution of the country’s problems lies in abolishing the interest-based financial system. He said special efforts should be made for the development of Balochistan province.

Sehar Kamran was of the view that the revenue collection target was not realistic. Shagufta Jumani suggested revoking tax on powdered milk. Sher Ali Arbab urged all the politicians to sit together on a common agenda of steering the country out of crises. Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani suggested withdrawing tax on agri inputs. The PPP’s minority member, Naveed Aamir Jeeva strongly condemned mob lynching in Sargodha, Swat and thanked Ulema for condemning the trend. Syed Ibrar Ali Shah also criticized the increase in income tax on the salaried class.

The House continued general discussion on the federal budget till late at night starting from 11am and the proceedings were adjourned a minute before midnight. The PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will speak on the federal budget on Tuesday (today) followed by the finance minister’s winding-up speech on the debate.