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NA passes ‘mini-budget’ amid loud Opp uproar

| House rejects all amendments moved by Opposition members with a majority

Escape from the IMF was not possible: Tarin

ISLAMABAD   –  Amid non-stop sloganeering, the PTI-led government late Thursday managed to get passed ‘The Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2021’ and ‘The State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) bill, 2022’ from the National Assembly with a majority vote.

Rejecting all the amendments moved by the Opposition, the government took five hours only to pass the mini-budget and ‘the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill.’ The House rejected amendments in a clause by 168 to 150 votes in the first instance after the opposition challenged the majority voice. On the second instance, the House rejected Opposition’s amendment in Clause 3 by 163 votes of Government and 146 votes of opposition members.

The Opposition members gathered in front of Speaker’s podium while holding placards in their hands and raising slogans. The placards were inscribed with  slogans‘ Those friends of IMF are traitors’, ‘State Bank Bill Not Accepted’ and others. They also tore the copies of the bills and kept throwing on the chair, but he patiently kept disposing of the controversial bills.  The opposition members  also pointed out the lack of quorum but it was also ignored and the main focus was to sail through controversial clauses with majority of votes.

The House also rejected dozens of amendments in the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2021 moved by the opposition members including Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Syed Naveed Qamar, Ahsan Iqbal, Khurram Dastgir and other opposition members.

The House passed the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2021 envisaging amendments in certain laws relating to taxes and duties with majority voice. Both the Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Opposition Leader Shehbaz were present during passage of bills and counting.

The Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin opposed amendments moved by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and other opposition members in the finance (supplementary) bill for exemption of taxes on bread, rusks, other bakery items and restaurants. 

PPP-P’s Co Chairman Bilawal Bhutto recalled that the Finance Minister while presenting the original budget had stated that he was man of words and there would be no mini-budget. “Neither the Prime Minister nor the Finance Minister are men of words and ultimately the poor masses will suffer,” said Bilawal.

Responding to amendments, Finance Minister said that the government was not going for heavy taxation rather the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2021 was about documentation.

Responding to points raised by the PML-N parliamentarian Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in the House, the Finance Minister questioned as to why the opposition was creating a storm when Rs280 billion out of Rs 343 billion would be refunded. “ As such there will be taxation of Rs73 billion and not Rs 343 billion as being assumed,” Tarin said.

He told the House that baby milk rusk, laptops and solar panels were being exempted from taxation claiming that the finance (supplementary) bill would not burden the common man.

Finance Minister said that there has been 35 percent increase in the revenue collection while there was bumper production of five crops due to investment made in the agriculture sector.

Shaukat Tarin said the government was taking care of the poor and that was why allocated Rs400 billion for issuance Rs one million Sehat Card to each deserving family.

PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the government is also going to bulldoze the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill in darkness of the night. Interestingly, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak asked the chair to carry on legislation as the previous government had bulldozed many legislations in past.

 He said Sardar Ayaz Sadiq also used to bulldoze the bills when he was speaker. 

On that Ayaz Sadiq challenged that record of passage of bills when he was Speaker, should be presented in the House.

Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar claimed that once Ayaz Sadiq as Speaker bulldozed the whole money bill in the House.

The Speaker when insisted by the opposition, disallowed counting of members on every amendment in every clause of the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2021. “The Government’s members are leaving the House and that is why they are escaping from the counting,” the PML-N member Ahsan Iqbal said.

He pointed that the opposition could demand counting of members on every clause when not satisfied with majority voice.

However, the Speaker after having opinion from the Advisor on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan said that he took the decision by using his powers under rule 29 of Rules of Conduct of Business in the House.

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq asked the Speaker that not only rules but the traditions also allow counting of members whenever demanded by the opposition members.

PML-N’s Rana Tanveer Hussain said the Finance Minister was saying that economy was moving in the right direction but fundamentals of economy were required to be corrected.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said it would be easy for international financial institutions to scrutinise country’s defence budget and nuclear programme. “ There are serious issues concerning the national security,” he said. Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar congratulated the Prime Minister on defeat of the opposition parties on passage of the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2021.

He said the PML-N when in the government had been bulldozing bills in darkness of the night within five minutes. The Minister said that there has been detailed debate on the State Bank bill in the Senate’s Finance Committee. He told the House that there has been no borrowing from the State Bank in the last two and half years.

Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin said the State Bank would be governed by the board of governors and the Pakistan Government would have full authority to govern the State Bank.

He recalled that IMF imposed restriction of giving autonomy to State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) because the last Governments borrow Rs 7.5 trillion from the SBP. The JUI-F parliamentary leader Asad Mahmood said the PTI-led Government was installed only destroy country’s economy.

The house also passed 14 other bills including the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2021, the Islamabad Healthcare Facilities Management Authority Bill, 2021, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (Section-8), the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (Section 2, 8,9 and 43B), the Allied Health Professionals’ Council Bill, 2021,the Pakistan Nursing Council (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and the University of Engineering and Emerging Technology Bill, 2021, the Securities Exchange Commission of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2021, the Protection of Women against Harassment at the Workplace Bill, 2022 and the Government Savings Bank (Amendment) Bill, 2021, the Post Office National Savings (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and the Protection of Parents Bill, 2021, the National Information Technology Board, 2021 and the National Meteorological Institute of Pakistan Bill, 2021.