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June 29, 2020

Joint opposition reject PTI’s federal budget

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June 29, 2020

ISLAMABAD: A united opposition on Sunday rejected the government’s federal budget for 2020-21, stating the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was on its last legs after disgruntled allies like the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP) ditched the coalition government.

In a joint press conference here, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari joined fellow opposition lawmakers Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Khawaja Asif, Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) Mian Aslam and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) Akram Durrani to lambaste the federal government’s budget, which Bilawal said had “united the nation against it”.

He added: “Our conscience does not allow us to pass such a budget. The people have been pressed into a difficult situation. The government imposed a tax on petrol before the budget was approved, which is more expensive than the petrol itself.” Bilawal also announced plans to convene an all-parties conference, possibly in the coming week, the date of which will be announced after Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif recovers.

The PML-N on June 11 revealed Sharif had come down with the coronavirus. “Despite his illness, Shahbaz Sharif has been in touch with all opposition parties,” Bilawal said during the press conference. He also said Shahbaz was making Prime Minister Imran Khan “sweat even though he is ill”.

“The entire opposition played a responsible role during the coronavirus pandemic,” Bilawal added. “Imran Khan as the Prime Minister is a threat to the health and economic situation of the nation.” The current crisis can be dealt with by listening to international organisations, he stressed.

When Khawaja Asif spoke, he too said the opposition will be formulating a joint strategy to address the “storm of inflation”. The former foreign minister said times were difficult as there was an epidemic in the entire country. “Instead of giving relief to the people, the burden was placed on them,” Asif added.

The PML-N lawmaker then criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan, saying: “Imran Khan’s rule is leading us to destruction. He has become a national burden. As soon he is rid of, Pakistan can be saved.”

He lamented that government institutions were being used to target the opposition. “It is now time for them to be held accountable,” Asif added.

“We will take every constitutional path to change the government. The country needs a new mandate now. A new mandate is the only way out of the current challenges.”

Following Asif’s speech, JI leader Mian Aslam criticised the budget as a “a blur of words”, and termed it “the worst budget”. He added that the federal government had already failed before, but “it has failed even more after the budget”.

When JUI-F leader Akram Durrani took the mic, he said the attitude of the government towards the opposition is evident for everyone. “Everyone is screaming at the moment,” Durrani added.

He also criticised the arrest of Jang/Geo Editor-In-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. “[There is] no case against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, who has been arrested for several months.

On the heels of the presser, Information Minister Shibli Faraz, flanked by federal ministers Hammad Azhar and Murad Saeed hit back at the opposition’s presser dismissing the criticism as business as usual.

Azhar questioned the criticism despite there being no new taxes in the budget, and Saeed criticised the PPP-ruled Sindh’s “corruption” and coronavirus response in the province. He also praised the government’s Ehsaas programme, which reached many families in Sindh.