The opposition on Wednesday took the government to task over its plan to table the supplementary finance bill [mini-budget] in the National Assembly.
A day earlier, the federal cabinet had deferred the approval of the supplementary finance bill which was scheduled to be tabled in today’s session.
Speaking on a point of order, PPP MNA Raja Pervez Ashraf said that everyone in the House as well as people from different walks of life were concerned over reports that the government was planning to introduce a money bill or a mini-budget.
“Inflation, unemployment and the shortage of gas and other commodities have already wreaked havoc on the people of the country. Now, if a mini-budget or money bill is in the offing, which would increase their difficulties, then everyone sitting in the House should resist the move,” he said.
Taking the floor, PML-N’s Khawaja Asif said that the country saw a “territorial surrender” on Dec 16, 1971 which it eventually recovered from.
“The country has come out of that disaster. [But] now we are going to surrender our economic sovereignty through the finance bill and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Amendment Bill 2021 which is much worse than what happened in 1971.”
The PML-N leader claimed that the state bank had become a “local branch” of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He said that the SBP governor was disguised as a “viceroy”, adding that Pakistan had become a “financial colony” of international institutions.
He vowed to oppose the SBP bill and the mini-budget, adding that there was a need to create a national consensus on both the issues. “Create national consensus on how we can get out of these issues. Things can’t go on like this.”
He said that today was the fourth day that the government was unable to complete quorum and claimed that it would again obtain votes through facilitators. He called on lawmakers to not surrender the country’s economic sovereignty.
Concluding his speech, Asif said that the country’s nuclear assets would be the next target. “After this, we will be stripped of our nuclear capabilities.”
National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri, who chaired today’s session, told the lawmakers that so far, no such bill had been presented in the house. “You can debate on the bill when it is presented,” he said.
When the deputy speaker gave the floor to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the opposition members pointed out the quorum and staged a walkout.
Suri then ordered a head count and declared that the quorum was complete. He gave the floor to the foreign minister for a second time, while members of the opposition returned to the house to participate in the proceedings.
During his speech, Qureshi assured the lawmakers that the government would protect the country’s economic sovereignty.
He said that protecting the country’s economic independence was the joint responsibility of the government and the parliament. However, the country’s macro-economic indicators did not become alarming during the last three years, he said.
Commenting on the point raised by Asif about the country’s nuclear assets, Qureshi said: “I want to say this on the floor of the house that there is, was and will remain a national consensus on credible minimum deterrence.”
Talking about quorum, he accepted that it was the government’s responsibility to fulfil it. He also urged the opposition to ensure the smooth functioning of the National Assembly, stating that pointing out quorum again and again was not in their benefit.