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Sunday October 24, 2021

Pandemonium in NA mars budget debate

June 16, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The acrimony between the treasury and opposition benches was on full display in the National Assembly, and risked descending into violence as partisan lawmakers hurled abuses, blew whistles, lobbed missiles and generally caused pandemonium during the budget debate on Tuesday.

According to Geo News, as Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif addressed the Lower House, he was greeted by loud jeers, slogans and whistles from the treasury members. As PTI lawmakers surrounded the former Punjab chief minister, PML-N lawmakers and other opposition members formed a protective circle around him. The jeering and slogans got louder as no one heeded Speaker Asad Qaiser, who was criticised by Shahbaz allowing the chaos unfurl unhindered.

As Shahbaz spoke, tempers rose when the government and opposition lawmakers came face-to-face. An aggressive Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Ali Nawaz Awan can be seen in a viral video clip furiously arguing with opposition lawmakers, using abusive language and throwing what appeared to be a copy of the agenda. It was thrown back at him and Awan angrily lobbed it back once again.

A female lawmaker tried to pull the PTI MNA away from the group of legislators who were shoving each other. Federal ministers Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Fawad Chaudhry were also seen standing by their seats, with the latter giggling. Another minister, Ali Amin Gandapur can be seen in another video clip exchanging words with opposition lawmakers.

When he could speak, Shahbaz criticised the government’s budget and its policies. “Imran Khan Niazi promised 10 million jobs. Where are those jobs?” asked Shahbaz. “Where is the $300bn that was supposed to be brought back to the country from abroad?”

He said Prime Minister Khan’s claims of eliminating corruption from Pakistan were “hollow”. “Pakistan is suffering from the worst form of corruption today,” he said. “No act of appointing or transferring someone these days is done without an element of corruption these days,” Shahbaz claimed.

He said the government failed to provide relief to the masses amid spiralling unemployment and inflation. Qaiser kept interjecting, requesting lawmakers on the treasury benches to refrain from shouting while the leader of the opposition spoke, to no avail.

Shahbaz wore headphones to drown out the noise. “They accuse us of generating ‘useless power’. If that is the case, why are people suffering from loadshedding these days?” asked Shahbaz. He said during the government of his brother, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan had set up power plants across the country and “ended the menace of loadshedding”.

The leader of the opposition was resuming his speech from Monday, when he had attempted to begin the debate on the budget before the National Assembly. “If the country has seen growth, have only the elite and those residing in the palaces of Bani Gala availed that prosperity?” the opposition leader had asked, amid ruckus from the treasury benches.

The PML-N president said poor people were “starving to death” in the country. Taking a jibe at the Prime Minister, Shahbaz said he wished those who cited the example of Riyasat-e-Medina would pay heed to the “dismal state of the widows, orphans and the destitute”.