NA passes finance bill in record time
ISLAMABAD: The government managed on Tuesday to secure the National Assembly’s approval for the Finance Bill 2017 in record time, thanks to the opposition’s continued boycott of the budget session.
In the opposition’s absence, there was no debate on cut motions either — the first time in the country’s parliamentary history that no cut motions were raised on the floor of the house.
Abdul Qahar Wahan, a member of the government-allied Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, tried to raise cut motions on a number of occasions, but was turned down by the speaker for speaking out of turn.
His outbursts, however, prompted a number of government members, including Sheikh Aftab, Anusha Rehman and Rana Mohammad Afzal Khan, to go over to his seat in an effort to placate him.
Consequently, the government scythed through the 150 demands for grants — which contain allocations for various government departments — worth around Rs3.5 trillion.
But in his winding up speech, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that even though the opposition in the lower house had chosen not to participate in the budget process, nearly all proposals sent by their counterparts in Senate had been incorporated.
Before listing the economic milestones achieved by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government over its four years in power, Mr Dar sought to clarify the controversy surrounding the National Finance Commission (NFC) award.
Maintaining that it was not unconstitutional to pass a budget without declaring a fresh award, he said that the Centre had completed its homework on the issue and was now waiting for the provinces’ assent to allocate shares in the divisible pool for Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Fata, as well as for a special security fund.
In his customary pre-walkout speech, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah expressed utter disdain for the budget-making process, saying that the government “can do what it pleases”.
“We want to talk about the regional quagmire; we want to know what is our position on Qatar,” he said, calling on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to come to parliament today (Wednesday) and take the house into confidence over his mediation trip to Saudi Arabia.
“We don’t want to hear any ministers; we want to hear it from the prime minister himself,” Mr Shah said.
“You will have to decide whether to play a role for peace or take a stand, like Turkey,” the opposition leader said, referring to the Turkish parliament’s decision to send troops to Qatar.
Suggesting that Pakistan could host a dialogue for the quarrelling Arab nations, he praised the PM for donning the mantle of peacemaker. But while speaking to reporters outside Parliament House, he declared the visit a failure.
He also asked why the house was being kept in the dark over the terms of Pakistan’s role in the Saudi-led military alliance, recalling the defence minister’s policy statement on former army chief retired Gen Raheel Sharif’s role in the coalition.
“The defence minister categorically said that no NOC would be granted to the former army chief until the terms of the alliance are finalised. But days later, we saw that an NOC was issued.”
Mr Shah also took exception to Khawaja Asif’s derogatory tweet regarding women politicians. “I also have daughters; all women are worthy of our respect, whether they are in the house or outside it.”
“I probably won’t even speak to her if she came before me; we don’t see eye to eye on many issues. But no matter how many disagreements we may have with that woman, we would never comment on her appearance,” he said, referring to Firdous Ashiq Awan, the former PPP minister who recently joined the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).