ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly on Tuesday, the first private members’ day of its 5th session, witnessed severe criticism of the recent IMF agreement by the opposition parties, urging the House to revisit the deal.
The House, with its heavy agenda, consumed most of the time discussing the situation arising out of the agreement made with the IMF, as opposition lawmakers termed it the basic reason for the depreciation of rupee against dollar and price hike.
The treasury, after facing severe criticism from opposition benches, assured the Opp lawmakers at the end of the proceedings that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar would take the House into confidence about the IMF deal on Monday (the 23rd of September).
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker Asad Umar, in his maiden speech, came down hard on the government for the strict terms of IMF loan worth 5.3 billion dollars.
He also said: “The government printed currency notes worth Rs 636 billion in its first two months, increasing the assumption the amount was utilised to clear circular debt of Rs 500 billon.”
Terms and conditions of the IMF deal, he said, needed to be disclosed to the public, saying that around 1.2 million people were expected to become unemployed because of the IMF agreement.
The PTI lawmaker also demanded the government inform the House of what stance it had adopted on awarding MFN status to India while signing the agreement with the IMF. He told the House that according to the assessment of the IMF, US dollar’s value would increase up to Rs 127 in the coming days, and by the end of the current fiscal year, the 5.5 percent inflation given by the previous government would rise up to 12 percent.
Taking part in the debate, PPP MNA Shazia Marri suggested review of the IMF agreement by the House. She said there was a dire need to broaden the tax net. She also linked the security situation of the country to terms and conditions of the IMF agreement. “We have to be practical and improve the tax net,” she added.
MQM lawmaker Khawaja Sohail Mansoor proposed that there should be direct taxation system to avoid any mismanagement. “I have already proposed that the deal should be discussed in the committees,” he added.
Sahibzada Yaqoob from Jamaat-e-Islami underlined the need to control corruption in the country, which had a direct impact on the utilisation of the loans.
On his turn, MNA Shah Gul Afridi said satisfactory law and order situation was a prerequisite for improvement of the economy.
PTI lawmaker Shirin Mazari termed the agreement illegal as it lacked approval from the House. “What is the benefit of taking suggestions now. The government should have done it earlier,” she added.
Contributing her share, a legislator from JUI-F, Aasia Nasir, asked the government about the strategy to handle the circular debt. “What measures are being taken to control price hike?” she questioned.
Mian Abdul Manan put weight behind discussing the agreement in the House. “The government should share details of printing notes,” he said.
PTI’s Arif Alvi recalled the government had promised that there would be no printing of notes to clear the circular debt.
Responding to the concerns raised by the opposition benches, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Shaikh Aftab said the finance minister would take the House into confidence. “Ishaq Dar will take the House into confidence on Monday,” he said, adding Pakistan would get rid of the begging bowl very soon. “Pakistan will emerge as a strong economy in the next five years,” he claimed.
He said the government was making all-out efforts to establish peace in the country. Minister of State Lt-Gen (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch said the PML-N government had no agenda to conceal anything from the masses. He further said all the terms and conditions of the IMF agreement had already been published.
Other lawmakers from the opposition benches stressed that the loan should be utilised in a transparent way as it was the only way to get rid of the crises. MQM’s Sajid Ahmed, on a point of order, demanded ban on People’s Amman Committee. He drew attention of the House to the arrest of alleged criminal elements of Lyari from Lahore.
PPP’s Shazia Marri said her party had never influenced the investigation process of the law-enforcement agencies. She added that if any criminal had left the country, it was the matter of the FIA and the CAA. “Unrest in Karachi is not limited to Lyari, but there are many other troubled areas in the city,” she responded.
Earlier, responding to a call-attention notice, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab made it clear that the government would not lay off a single employee from PIA. “Around 19,400 people working in PIA hold 12 percent share of the airlines and none would be laid off,” he added. About the government’s policy, Sheikh said only 26 percent shares will be floated for non-core services. He further remarked that no final decision had been taken in this regard. To another call-attention notice about the ERRA, he said the authority would not be dissolved. About misappropriation, he said that audit paras had been settled.
Earlier, five bills from the opposition side – “The Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Bill‚ 2013”, “The HIV/AIDs (Safety and Control) Bill‚ 2013”, “The National Database and Registration Authority (Amendment) Bill‚ 2013,” “The Political Parties Order (Amendment) Bill‚ 2013,” and “The Publication of the Holy Quran (Elimination of Printing and Recording Errors) (Amendment) Bill‚ 2013” — were approved.