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June 25, 2020

Senate asks govt to ensure writing Khatim-un-Nabiyeen in syllabi, documents

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June 25, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Wednesday passed a unanimous resolution, demanding of the government to ensure writing Khatim-un-Nabiyeen (Finality of the Prophethood) with the name of Holy Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (Peace be upon him) in syllabi and official documents.

The resolution was moved by Senator Mushtaq Ahmed of JI, arguing it is among the fundamental beliefs and the Holy Quran manifestly declared the finality of the Prophethood.

The House also unanimously adopted recommendations of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Finance on the Finance Bill 2020, containing the annual budget statement. The motion to this effect was moved by Senator Farooq Hamid Naek, who heads the committee. Speaking on the occasion, he explained the committee proposed 40 amendments in the finance bill; besides, 53 general consensus recommendations. The Senate unanimously adopted a series of recommendations for incorporation in the Finance Bill 2020-21.

The House recommended that salaries of government employees should be enhanced at least 10 percent. The Senate recommended that the federal government should double the budget for education and health sector. It demanded that budget allocation for ministry of national health services must be enhanced to a minimum of five percent.

The Senate recommended granting of tax relief for the manufacturing and supply of Personal Protective Equipment. Budgetary allocations for online education and Higher Education Commission were also recommended by the House.

The House recommended that 11 percent cut proposed on the share of provinces in the National Finance Commission award must be revised immediately. It was also recommended that more funds should be allocated for management of rain water reservoirs as well as construction of small dams.

The recommendations say that tobacco must be treated as a crop like wheat, maize, and sugarcane and must be exempted from taxes and duties.

However, Federal Excise Duty on cigarettes should be enhanced as per World Health Organisation guidelines. The House recommended that custom duties of raw material, essential finished goods and plant and machinery whose domestic alternative is available in the country should be reduced to zero.

Furthermore, Customs duties of these items, having local alternatives, available, must be charged at double of the existing rates. Abolishment of all kinds of withholding tax, chargeable on cash transactions form banks has also been recommended by the House. The House recommended that recycling industry functioning at small levels should be exempted from sales tax. It recommended that funds should be allocated for improvement in the aviation sector and to upgrade airports across the country.

The Senate recommended that a realistic tax collection target should be set for the next fiscal year. It recommended to raising at least 50 percent in the coronavirus stimulus package for fertilizer subsidy, loan remission and other relief to the farmers in view of Covid-19 and locust challenges. The House demanded to restore zero rated facility or slash general sales tax from 17 percent to 4 percent for textile export sector.

Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar said the government has tried to minimise the impact of Covid-19 on the economy by pursuing a prudent strategy. Winding up discussion on the Finance Bill 2020-21 in the Senate, he said that presenting a tax-free budget while enhancing allocations for development as well as education and health budgets in the face of coronavirus shows the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The minister said that the all the economic indicators were showing positive trends prior to the break out of the pandemic. He said we reduced the current account deficit by 73 percent, trade deficit 31 percent and fiscal deficit to 3.8 percent in the first nine months of current fiscal year. He said it was also for the first time that our primary surplus remained positive. During this period FBR collections were also witnessing 17 percent growth and non-tax revenue saw an increase of 134 percent. He said Foreign Direct Investment also doubled from one billion dollars to two billion dollars and refunds of 250 billion rupees were also made to the businesses.

Hammad Azhar said the pandemic inflicted a blow to our economy as elsewhere in the world. To cope with the situation the government gave a mega stimulus package and under this the payments were made to all the provinces. Rs75 billion were allocated for bulk purchases of Personal Protective Equipment. The minister categorically stated that the federal government had not withheld the amounts of the provinces under the National Finance Commission, claiming these things were used for point scoring. He also assured the House that the recommendations of the Senate for the Finance Bill 2020-21 would be given due consideration.

Earlier, Senator Mussadik Malik of PML-N said the country had two stories and hence two budgets: One budget was from the IMF and the second budget was for the poor policeman, the operator, who died but his salary did not increase and his pension did not increase. The defence forces, he said, called for increase in the salary but you did not increase it and six people were martyred during that time, adding the current budget was a bankruptcy budget.

PPP Senator Rehman Malik predicted the next budget would also go into deficit and said, “Our industry is frozen because of the coronavirus. He wished that Prime Minister Imran Khan should have attended the Senate session and listened to senators.

Referring to findings of Imperial College London, he said that the college had given horrifying predictions about Pakistan that there could be 20-80 thousand deaths per day in August in Pakistan due to coronavirus (God forbid). He said that it was all because that we couldn’t implement SOPs against the virus and never imposed proper lockdown.

He said that there was no budgetary allocation for water management in the country in the form of small dams and to secure the water from getting wasted by falling into the sea. He added that our 65 percent water was wasted into sea and there are ways and means for the divergence of rain water to Balochistan to turn the province green.

Responding to a point of public importance, Leader of the House Dr Shahzad Wasim said that the 18th Amendment and the NFC should be debated. “We are ready for discussion on any issue, including the 18th Amendment and NFC. There may be discussion in the next session, as we are not running away from issues,” he remarked. Later, the Senate session was prorogued sine die by the Chairman Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani.