ISLAMABAD – The National Assembly on Wednesday concluded general debate on the federal budget amidst a strong protest by the major opposition party, PML-N, and desk thumping from the treasury benches.
At the time when Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh was winding up the debate, the house was presenting almost the same scene of rumpus that was witnessed at the time of the presentation of the budget.
The PML-N legislators, although, remained absent till the middle of the proceedings, but suddenly entered the house in a queue just before the minister was to end his speech and created much hullabaloo by raising anti-government slogans and tearing the copies of the order of the day.
Following the conclusion of the general budget debate, the charged expenditure including demands for grants and appropriations of Rs.8.570 trillion, were presented in house having the biggest component of Rs 7.308 trillion on the repayment of domestic debt.
Amidst continuous sloganeering by the PML-N members, Shaikh lauded the incumbent government for presenting its fifth budget. “Effort has been made to provide maximum relief to masses,” he said.
He further said the provinces had been given additional funds of Rs 800 billion during the last two years. “This government has succeeded to collect additional tax of Rs 400 billion and achieved this year’s target,” he added.
About Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), he said Rs 70 billion had been allocated to provide relief to the poor people.
He also appreciated the 145 suggestions from Senate, assuring the inclusion of several in the final budget document.
When the finance minister was making speech, the PML-N lawmakers surrounded him without caring about the repeated instructions of Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza for maintaining order in the house.
Earlier, PPP legislator Yousuf Talpur rued the fact that the promise that interest on loans would not be collected from the farmers in the flood-affected areas of Sindh had not been materialised. He said there was need to take necessary measures, as floodwater had not yet been drained properly. He further proposed that the planned project of Zulfiqarabad should be constructed in the Gorakh hill area. Criticising the finance bill, MQM lawmaker Sajid Ahmed demanded eliminating the quota system, adding that every taxable person or entity should be taxed.
Sharing her view on budget 2012-13, Bushra Gohar from the ANP spoke against forming new ministries after 18th amendment, as they should be under the control of provinces.
“The ANP is an all-weather partner of the government, but some of commitments ware not materialised in the budget,” she said, proposing a 20 per cent cut in the defence budget to allocate more funds to education and health sectors. She was of the view that the country could be made secure by spending on the masses rather to invest in guns. Disapproving hefty allocation for the BISP, the ANP lawmaker said the programme was meant to make the poor beggars.
But a lawmaker from the opposition party (JUI-F) Laiq Muhammad Khan said the funds allocation for the BISP should be increased. Strongly criticising the FC role in Balochistan, Usman Khan Advocate said the FC was acting against the Baloch people. He proposed a new force comprising Baloch people. The charged expenditure included in demands for grants and appropriations of Rs.8.570 trillion was also presented in the house.
According to the details of charged expenditure, an amount of Rs 2,549,310,000 has been specified for Superannuation Allowances and Pensions, Rs 11,000,000,000 for Grant-in-Aid and Miscellaneous, Rs 353,940,000 for other expenditure of Foreign Affairs Division, Rs 13,951,000 for Civil Works, Rs.952,817,000 for National Assembly, Rs 692,359,000 for the Senate, Rs 150,000,000 for Pakistan Post Office Department, Rs 3,324,198.000 for Pakistan Railways, Rs 58,791,779,000 for External Development Loans and Advances by the Federal Government and Rs 616,708,000 for Staff, Household and Allowances of the President.