ISLAMABAD: Insults, insinuations and walkout marred the Senate proceedings on Thursday. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator from Sindh Saifullah Abro challenged the direction of Chairman Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, who had asked some treasury members to bring back the opposition to the House.
It was rare to witness that while the chair asked PTI senators Ejaz Chaudhry and Dost Muhammad Khan to go out and bring back the opposition senators, who had walked out to protest the repeated remarks of Abro, targeting the PPP Sindh government’s performance and the party leadership.
To the surprise of many, Senator Abro reacted to the chair’s direction by saying to the rising senators, “Please sit down, there is no need to bring them back, and let me say what I have to say”.
During his speech, the chair repeatedly asked him to speak on the federal budget, who, at one stage, said that Rs420 million had been allocated for controlling the population of stray dogs and Rs240 million for shifting them while there was no ambulance for the dead bodies: there was no MRI and CT scan machines in Larkana hospital, which had become a heap of garbage.
Kulbhushan-related the International Court of Justice (Review and Reconsideration) Bill, 2021 and The Muslim Family Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 were presented in the Senate and referred to the standing committee concerned after the opposition senators criticised and opposed them.
Leader of Opposition Yusuf Raza Gilani rose twice to point out that order should be restored in the House and the senator should desist from speaking on an issue, which could trigger pandemonium in the House. He also reminded the chair that the senator should not make mention of any person, who could not defend himself in the House, not being its member.
However, when directions from the chair were ignored time and again on this count, all opposition senators stormed out of the Senate, as he also talked of rising AIDS cases, whereas his remarks against PPP chairman were expunged by the chair. Senator Abro, who is chairman of the Senate standing committee on power, retorted that IPPs and circular debt were like cancer for the country.
The ruckus so much prolonged that at one time, while taking the floor, PTI Senator Seemee Ezdi said, “We are ashamed today. It looks like a fish market here: I have not seen this before”. She blamed members from both sides of the aisle for the mess.
PTI’s Muhammad Humayun Mohmand added fuel to the fire by calling PML-N and PPP top leaders jet black financial terrorists. He said their economic teams were expert in organised crimes and amid opposition uproar remarked, “Seeing them reminds me of a Hollywood movie Ocean’s eleven. A man became chairman of the PIA and within years established his own airline,” he remarked.
Palwasha Behram Khan came down hard at Prime Minister Imran Khan for using the name of State of Madina for politics and contended that the rulers in state of Madina do not break their promises nor do they tell lies. She reminded that the PM had declared he would prefer suicide over going to the IMF with a begging bowl.
She said he promised shelter and made people homeless. Likewise he promised jobs and rendered people jobless.
While laying the report of the House standing committee on finance and revenue on the Finance Bill, 2021-22, its Chairman Senator Muhammad Talha Mehmood said 114 of them were related to the money bill and 180 to Public Sector Development Programme. He said that the entire committee had rejected issuance of notices worth Rs2.4 trillion taxes to businessmen across the country and Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin made a commitment to withdraw all these notices.
“Who will do business in the country when you have issued notice to the entire business community? Our committee will hold a meeting on this matter,” Senator Talha said.
He said that the committee had received notices of 170 proposals and it held 12 meetings and furnish a set of its proposals, which included recommending to the National Assembly to increase salary of government employees by 20 per cent and the same increase proposed in pension of retired persons keeping in view inflation. It proposed an increase in retirement age to 62 years, reduction in indirect taxes and no increase in petroleum levy.
The senator noted that the committee recommended doing away with delegation of powers (from Section 203A to H) to the AC or an officer of his level to arrest any person on the basis of doubt and the finance minister assured to allay their concerns and withdraw the set of clauses.
Likewise, the committee recommended that the duty on dairy products should be withdrawn and the minister accepted it while it was also proposed that the tax on medical allowance and reimbursement must be withdrawn and the government had agreed to it. “We had also learnt from television channels that our proposal of withdrawing the increase in turnover tax and sales tax on flour mills had been accepted,” he noted.
These recommendations include reduction in withholding tax on healthcare sector from eight to three per cent, exemption of edible items from General Sales Tax, 20 per cent increase in the pension and basic pay of the government employees. The upper house proposed that imposition of Rs10 billion taxes on salaried class by slapping income tax on their expenditure on medical treatment, various allowances and their savings in provident and pension funds should be withdrawn.
It was recommended that the budget for health and education sectors should be doubled and minimum wage for Islamabad Capital Territory be increased to 25,000 rupees, and food items be exempted from retail tax, interest free loans for farmers. The House recommended to reduce duties and other charges on imported cosmetics, minimise import taxes on raw materials to encourage investments and productions, reduce custom duty on import of new spare-parts of cars, and GST on edible items from 17 to 8.5 per cent, provide incentives for producing readymade auto disabling syringes, and withdrawal of increase in sales tax from 10 to 17 per cent on all poultry feed.