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Treasury disrupts budget session first time in history

Top Story

June 15, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The members sitting on the government benches on Friday assumed role of the opposition disallowing start of debate on the federal budget’s proposals while raising uproar on floor of the National Assembly (NA), preventing Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif from delivering his speech. It has happened for the first time in history.

Shahbaz Sharif was to open debate on the federal budget but every time he rose he was interrupted by members sitting on the treasury benches. The cabinet members including Fawad Chaudhry, Omar Ayub, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Murad Saeed, Faisal Vawda and Dr Shireen Mazari led the uproar from the government side.

Ghulam Sarwar and Fawad Chaudhry continued to rise on their seats when Shahbaz Sharif uttered a few words or wanted to start his inauguralspeech on the budget during morning and afternoon’s sittings of the House. Some of the ministers even reached in front of the speaker’s dais during disorderly proceedings of the House while others continued to hoot at the opposition leader.

Fawad Chaudhry after getting close to Shahbaz Sharif threw head phone on his dais. Members from the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) also staged walkout from the House after repeated requests, their parliamentary leader Asad Mehmood was not allowed to speak on a point of order. The opposition leader also requested the deputy speaker who was chairing proceedings on that occasion to give floor to MMA member as they want to raise issue of Namoos-e-Sahabah (Companions of the Holy Prophet SAW) with references to some parts of prime minister’s recent address to the nation.

Before leaving the House, Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali raised slogans of ‘Namoos-e-Sahabah Zindabad’. However, they could not get floor from the chair to speak on the issue. Shahbaz Sharif, who managed to utter a few sentences in his speech, termed the government the most rigged in the history of Pakistan. He said the incumbent government previously had brought two mini-budgets which already had played havoc with the economy.

As Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri asked the opposition leader to start his speech, Shahbaz questioned how he could open debate on the federal budget if the government members continue to interrupt them again and again.

“This is job of the government to keep decorum when the opposition leader is speaking and responsibility of the chair to keep House in order,” he said.

The deputy speaker, who was finding it difficult to conduct smooth conduct of the House, sometimes asked the government members to maintain order in the House and sometimes he requested the MMA members to take their seats while asking the opposition leader to start his speech.

However, the situation forced the deputy speaker to adjourn proceedings till Monday afternoon. “It was decided that the House will meet also on Saturday during budget session, but now it is being adjourned till Monday,” he said.

Earlier, Dr Shireen Mazari objected to placing a dais on desk of the opposition leader when he was given the floor by the speaker who was chairing proceeding of the House before Jumma prayers.

The speaker said the dais could be provided to any of the members if it is requested, but the government members continued their protest. Former prime minister and PPP parliamentarian Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on a point of order said the PTI leaders were offering container to opposition, but now they are raising objections on providing a dais to the opposition leader. He also regretted non-issuance of production orders of the ex-president and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari from custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

“Asif Zardari is sitting at distance of just two-minute drive from the Parliament House, but his production orders are not being issued,” he said. Pervaiz Ashraf said a very bad precedent was being set by not enabling an ex-president and parliamentarian to attend an important session of the National Assembly.

In the Senat, joint opposition also staged a walk-out against the ‘government’s inaction’ on the recently-adopted resolution, calling for immediate withdrawal of reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa and the alleged one-sided accountability of the opposition leaders.

There was a loud demand from the opposition benches that they welcomed the decision of constitution of a commission of inquiry with regards to the fate of loans taken during the last ten years but insisted on inclusion of ten months of this government in it as well, as it had also obtained massive loans.

Prime Minister Imran Khan came under fire for using ‘SHO-like language’ against the political rivals during his late night address to the nation on June 11. Opposition legislators claimed even cabinet members were not aware of the details of proposed agreement with IMF.

Former chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani’s rose to claim that the budget presentation in the National Assembly was in contravention to the law and rules and as a consequence, was not its laying in the Senate and then referral to the House committee on finance for making recommendations was also illegal and against the rules.

He had Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani had arguments, as the former insisted on being heard while the chair ruled that the matter related to another House and then he also ruled the budget presentation in NA was as per the law and the rules.

The House started discussion on the budget with senators from both sides of the divide, speaking for and against the taxation measures and other aspects of the budget. Opposition senators alleged that it was unprecedented that the budget had been made by IMF while the government had agreed and followed to its conditions despite the fact, no agreement had been signed on the package.

Leader of Opposition Senator Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq of PML-N supported the issue of arrest of PPP supremo Asif Ali Zardari despite the fact, he was fully cooperation with NAB and following courts and nothing had been proved against him as yet and non-issuance of his production orders for the National Assembly session.

After the parliamentary session, leaders of the opposition parties accused members of the treasury benches of disrupting proceedings of the National Assembly on receiving directives from Prime Minister Imran Khan and also demanded the PTI government to quit for failing to control continuous downfall of the national economy.

The leaders of opposition parties including Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Khawaja Asif, Ahsan Iqbal, Khursheed Shah and Asad Mahmood were talking to media persons following adjournment of the National Assembly’s sitting.

PML-N Senior Vice President Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the opposition parties were united for the sake of Namoos-e-Sahabah, regretting that the deputy speaker during proceedings of the National Assembly did not give floor to the MMA members to speak on the issue. He asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to give explanation of wording used for Companions of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) in his midnight address to the nation.

“It is more regretful that the ministers created hurdles in giving floor to the MMA members to speak on the issue,” he said. He regretted that the government members did not allow the opposition leaders to open debate on the federal budget.

PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal said as the national economy and Pakistan currency were continuing to melt down, the government while admitting its failure should resign.

Ahsan Iqbal said continuous devaluation of Pakistani rupee reflects that the government has surrendered before the IMF. He said national security is facing threats while strategic interests are also being hit. “Due to devaluation of rupee, defence budget has also come down to 7.5 billion dollars from last year’s allocations of over 9 billion dollars,” he said.

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf of PPP said that while playing havoc with all the traditions, the production orders of the PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari were not being issued. He said the PTI government had presented anti-people budget and wanted to hide its facts while creating uproar in the House.

Khawaja Asif and Syed Khursheed Shah also came harsh on the Prime Minister Imran Khan for using objectionable wording during his midnight address to the nation. “Why the prime minister is presenting wrong picture of the Islamic history and exploiting Islam for his purpose,” they said.

Khawaja Asif said it happened for the first that the government members particularly the ministers interrupted proceedings of the National Assembly. “The ministers whose portfolios were changed were leading the uproar to save their jobs,” he said. Asif said the government was bent upon toppling itself as its members did not want to run proceedings of the House.

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