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May 8, 2019

18th Amendment not being rolled back, Senate told

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May 8, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the Senate on Tuesday the 18th Amendment was not going to be rolled back and held out assurance that the country was not becoming a one unit, nor a presidential form of system was being put in place.

On the issue of National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, the minister said the previous government caused delay in the award, adding former finance minister Asad Umar had repeatedly asked the provinces to nominate ex-officio members of the commission but they kept on delaying the matter.

He said the Sindh government was mainly responsible for the delay in this regard.He, however, added despite a norm of loot and plunder that had destroyed the economy in the past decade, the PTI government would announce a more favourable NFC Award.

Replying to points raised by the opposition parties about Dr Reza Baqir’s appointment as Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Qureshi said Dr Baqir was a genuine Pakistani expatriate who had come to the motherland with a mission to steer the country out of economic crisis. “Dr Baqir has been appointed on merit and he has come to Pakistan to serve the country at a lower salary package.”

The minister pointed out there was a macro-economic instability in the country when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government came into power, saying the government decided to go for talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ensure stability.

He specifically mentioned that forex reserves were at the lowest ebb; fiscal deficit was 6.6 per cent of GDP and trade deficit was $19 billion, saying there was Rs 1,300 billion circular debt that the previous government had left for the incumbent government.

He questioned: “Who is responsible for the decline of public institutions? Whether the growth declined in the last eight months? Whether the foreign direct investment dropped in the last eight months?” He said international monetary institutions had warned about economic instability and added the PTI government sought help from friendly countries like Saudi Arabia, China and the UAE to bridge the huge gap.

The minister categorically said there was no issue with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) or nuclear programme. Qureshi assuredthe upper house that the country was not becoming a one unit, nor a presidential form of system was being put in place, saying the 18th Amendment was not going to be rolled back.

Earlier, speaking on an adjournment motion, Senator Sassui Palijo said no NFC had been awarded to the provinces after 2010 due to which the economic suffering of Sindh had been doubled. She said the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), after its merger, would get the share of NFC Award of all provinces, which was not appropriate.

During the session, Foreign Minister Qureshi and Pakistan Peoples Party leader Raza Rabbani exchanged harsh words over IMF bailout package. Qureshi asked whether PPP appointed Abdul Hafeez Shaikh as finance minister on the demand of IMF.

An exchange of hot words was also witnessed between Rabbani and leader of the house Senator Shibli Faraz. Rabbani complained that the Ministry of Interior didn’t reply nine out of the 10 questions asked in the house.

Senator Faraz retorted Rabbani: “You want to sabotage proceedings of the house with routine daily protest without any reason.” Later, the opposition benches staged walkout from the session protesting over the absence of the interior minister in the house.

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