Budget 19-20: Opposition moves cut motions on finance bill bids

ISLAMABAD: As the National Assembly session held to debate the finance bill resumed on Wednesday, members of the opposition commenced moving cut motions seeking changes to budget proposals, which will be voted on by lawmakers in the House today.

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With Prime Minister Imran Khan in attendance, opposition benches were relatively empty as several leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and other opposing parties had gathered at a hotel in Islamabad for a much-anticipated All Parties Conference (APC). The APC is aimed at discussing possibilities of launching an anti-government protest campaign from a single platform.

MNAs Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar are absent from the Lower House as they remain in the custody of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) despite calls by various members of the opposition to the speaker to issue their production orders.

Earlier today, Minister for Revenue Hammad Azhar moved various demands for grants that were approved through a voice vote.

About 720 cut motions have been moved with regards to 10 ministries in the assembly, including cuts in the allocations of various government divisions and institutions, including the Aviation Division, the Establishment Division, the National Security Division, and the Poverty Alleviation and Safety Division.

Prior to the start of the voice vote, PML-N’s Ayesha Ghaus Pasha said that there had been 83 per cent increase in the demands for grants, also called charged expenditures.

Pasah said, “last year, [charged expenditures were] Rs23,732 billion and now the government is seeking approval of charged expenditures worth Rs43,478bn,” adding, “the increase in charged expenditures is not because of the loans obtained by the previous governments but because of the bad debt management of the [incumbent] government.”

Pasha added, “on the one hand, the govt is making people jobless and putting millions of people below the poverty line and on the other hand, it is taking credit for launching a social protection programme which would only be beneficial to a few. It is unacceptable.”

PPP’s Nafisa Shah dubbed the formation of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the utilisation of debts obtained by previous governments as a “non-starter”.

She demanded to establish a Parliamentary commission to instead review the debt management policy of the current government.

PPP’s Hina Rabbani Khar said the premier used to claim in his speeches that he had reduced the expenditure of PM Office, adding, “either he is lying or these budget documents are wrong. These documents show that the govt is seeking an allocation of Rs1.17bn for PM Office whereas the previous govt had allocated Rs986m.”

“The prime minister is asking the people to make sacrifices for the nation but is not ready to do it himself,” Khar added.

At the start of the session, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had once again demanded the NA speaker to issue the production orders of Waziristan MNAs Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir so that they could attend the ongoing budget session and join voting on cut motions.

A wrong precedent was being set by not allowing MNAs from Waziristan to play their role and represent their constituents in the budget, asserted Bilawal, adding, “every member, facing whatever charges, has the right to attend the sittings and present their viewpoint.”

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