Budget 2019-20 approved by Parliament amid strong opposition protest

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly gave formal approval to the federal budget for fiscal 2019-20 late Friday evening as the coalition and its allies crushed the combined opposition’s attempt to block the passage of the Finance Bill 2019-20.

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The opposition’s bid to block the finance bill after State Minister for Revenue Hammad Azhar was allowed to put it for voting through a motion was rejected by the house with a 175-146 vote.

After rejecting all cut motions of the opposition parties a day earlier, the lower house passed the finance bill today.

Opposition recorded strong protest over the budget prior to the voting, with most members of the opposition wearing black armbands.

Taking the floor, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said: “We totally reject this budget.”

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Ahsan Iqbal, taking the floor, said, “If the prime minister of a country is taking it towards bankruptcy then the country doesn’t require an enemy. This is an anti-growth budget that will bring in unemployment, poverty, and backwardness.”

Iqbal deemed the budget an anti-poor, anti-salaried class budget and that the “selected budget should be withdrawn and a new people-friendly budget should be presented.”

Hammad Azhar responded to the opposition by saying that the opposition was quoting wrong figures and that he was “sure that the opposition had not actually read the budget document”.

Azhar, amid strong chanting by the opposition, went on to say, that “For the first time in the country’s history, we have reduced civil expenditures up to five per cent.”

Azhar tried to quote figures from the budget document in an attempt to prove that Prime Minister House’s expenditures had actually been cut and that no new taxes had been imposed on ghee.

Azhar said that the government intends to raise the tax by four percent as it has become imperative to ensure stable national growth.

The national economy was intentionally paralyzed by previous governments for their vested interests while the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government has cut down the current account deficit by 30 per cent, said Azhar.

He added, “there exists a need to increase taxes, in the previous 10 years only 2 percent tax increase was seen. The federal government would be bankrupt if the tax isn’t increased by 4 percent. The previous government imposed Rs5,000 tax on every 0.1 million, we have revised it to put it on Rs 2,500.”

Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif proposed an amendment to the Finance Bill, seeking to change its title before the proceedings could begin.

The amendment, signed by other opposition members as well, seek to rename the Finance Act 2019 as “IMF Obedience Act 2019”.

Khawaja Asif, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Marrium Aurangzeb, Barjees Tahir, Murtaza Javed Abbasi, Khurram Dastagir, Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, Mohsin Ranjha and Shaza Fatima, amongst others, signed the amendment bill.

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