Following a week of disturbance in the National Assembly, the government and opposition finally agreed not to interrupt a debate on the federal budget — presented on June 11 — giving Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif the opportunity to commence the general discussion on Wednesday.
During an hour-long negotiations between the government and the opposition, the two sides agreed that they would listen to the speeches of each other with patience and without creating disturbances. The reconciliatory efforts made by the Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri bear fruit as both sides reached an understanding that a treasury member would be given the opportunity to speak after every speech of an opposition member.
Talking about the budget, Shehbaz said that it had only brought a message of disappointment for the people.
“We completely reject this budget. Budget is a sword of torture that is slitting the throat of the average man.”
“If they were to make a people’s budget, there were five things that were important: employment opportunities, raising gross domestic product (GDP), increasing exports and trade, further reducing prices, and providing social and economic justice.”
The opposition leader said that at the end of the financial year, the government had a Rs500 billion gap in their revenue target.
“Imran Khan used to say PML-N government imposes indirect taxes. What happened today? The ‘masters of U-turn’ in this budget have imposed 70 per cent indirect taxes.”
Shahbaz alleged that the budget was “International Monetary Fund (IMF)-led and IMF-dictated”.
“Those who had come to create a naya Pakistan and to turn Pakistan into heaven, have taken it towards economic hell through these bad steps.”
Shahbaz said that the incumbent government had presented two mini-budgets in the fiscal year, following which they went to the IMF “and said they can’t fulfil their targets and asked for exemptions”.
“They will then compromise on such crucial national interests that the economic and political situation of Pakistan will further worsen.”
Shahbaz started his speech by first addressing the disorder the assembly had witnessed in its last three sessions, expressing regret over “wasting days”. “It [the pandemonium] was against the traditions of this house, it does not add to its glory.”
He also supported Bilawal’s demand for the production orders of the four MNAs.
Addressing the speaker Suri, the opposition leader said, “they have received votes from the people to represent their demands. You are the custodian of this house, you have a big responsibility to ensure their presence under the powers given to you, that they are able to come here and represent their constituencies.”
“In 2013, the genuine votes of the people elected the PML-N government. We had to face tremendous challenges immediately. During [former president retired] Gen Pervez Musharraf’s time, there was a lot of load-shedding.”
“The then opposition of PTI came out on containers for seven months. They attempted to damage the economy; these were efforts to undermine our work. But ‘man proposes and God disposes’.”
Shehbaz then referenced Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan in 2014, saying: “The country won’t forget that when Xi Jinping was visiting, PTI leaders were requested to get up from D-Chowk for only three days — but they said no and, as a result, the Chinese president’s visit was postponed.”
“For seven months the visit was postponed, and somewhere around May 2015, the agreements were inked.”
“We have a few numbered friends — China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. But at that time, when there was electricity shortage and terrorism, who came to our rescue? It was China.”
“During [former prime minister] Nawaz Sharif’s era, 11,000 megawatt electricity was generated. PTI had said that we will generate so much electricity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) that we will provide it to all of Pakistan.”
“I will not waste your time, I am not telling stories. I will not say anything that is irrelevant or not based on fact. In KP, from 2015 to 2018, -6 megawatt electricity was generated.”
Saying that the PML-N under Nawaz Sharif had improved the condition of the country, he criticised the Imran Khan-led government for “burdening the people”.
“Afghanistan is our brother nation and we want a good relationship with them, but this is all about economic competition. Afghan currency is stronger than the Pakistani currency.”
“Bangladesh’s per capita income is ahead of us. Fifteen to twenty years ago, we used to have a healthy competition with India. We were ahead of India in textile; in some sectors, we were ahead and in others, they were behind.”
Shehbaz alleged as allowed to speak uninterrupted, “whenever a budget was presented, some segments were happy, others were unhappy. This is the first instance that the poor are strongly protesting.”
“Widows are saying that their stoves have no gas […] while even the rich, the traders, and shopkeepers are also feeling the pressure. The entire economy has been destroyed.”
“This is the situation in not a year, but in a mere ten months. Everything is sky-high, the dollar has reached the sky. On the last day of our tenure, the rupee was 115 against the US dollar.”
“God forbid, when I finish my address, the dollar will be at 170. The dollar is galloping.
“All the members are extremely worried about what will happen. They [PTI] have no vision, nothing on their mind. Only one thing has come forward: their ineligibility and incapability.”
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari spoke briefly at the start of today’s session, urging Speaker Asad Qaiser once again to issue the production orders for former president Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Saad Rafique, and North Waziristan MNAs Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar.