Govt, opposition clash over mini-budget thumbnail

Govt, opposition clash over mini-budget

  • Opposition vows to block mini-budget and SBP bills
  • PMLN: Recent elections show MPs no longer receiving “calls”

The government and opposition have found themselves engaged in a complex battle over the supplementary finance bill (mini-budget) with each party struggling to overcome internal rifts and positioning itself to get the ultimate objectives.

On Wednesday, the government was trying to placate its unhappy coalition partners and the opposition leaders were faced with a key question: Will there be a replay of the joint Parliament session of November 17 where the government bulldozed 33 bills because some of the opposition MPs were absent.

The battle began on Tuesday when the federal cabinet failed to approve the mini-budget bill as the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PMLQ) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) expressed some reservations. The development was confirmed by Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed on Wednesday.

The cabinet deferred the mini-budget bill though it did approve the State Bank of Pakistan Autonomy Bill.

Government, opposition work out strategies

The government reached out to its allies on Wednesday and, consequently, the PMLQ has assured that it will support the mini-budget bill, SAMAA TV reported.

However, the MQM continues to oppose taxes on computers and tablet PCs, according to Federal IT Minister Aminul Haq.

The government plans to withdraw tax exemptions on several items.

The federal cabinet will meet at 12pm on Thursday to approve the supplementary finance bill, which will be tabled in the National Assembly later in the day with the SBP bill.

On the other hand, the opposition parties held a joint meeting at the Parliament House. The united opposition has vowed to block the mini-budget and the SBP Autonomy bills, SAMAA TV’s Usman Khan reported. 

The meeting agreed that the mini-budget would destroy the country while the SBP related law would amount to giving up the financial sovereignty of the country, he said.

However, the same opposition had failed to block legislation at the joint session in November. Will things be any different this time around? 

Speaking to journalists, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN)’s Rana Sanaullah claimed that if MPs had not received “phone calls” in November, the government would have been defeated.

He said the experience of the by-elections in Punjab and the local bodies polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa indicates that politicians were no longer receiving “calls.”

Sanaullah said they would do everything to block the mini-budget and to ensure that all of the MPs are present at the session.

The mini-budget could not be stopped by force, he also said.

Fears over nuclear weapon capability

There were fiery speeches from the treasury and opposition benches in the National Assembly on Wednesday.

PMLN’s Khawaja Asif said that the State Bank of Pakistan had been turned into a branch of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“I appeal to you that do not surrender the financial sovereignty of the country. After this, they would deprive you of the nuclear [weapon] capability,” he said adding that the present situation was more dangerous than that of the 1970s.

Asif said that they would oppose the mini-budget because it would spell disaster for the country.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan is faced with financial problems but protecting the country’s financial independence was everyone’s responsibility.

He rejected Asif’s claim on the nuclear weapon capability and said that Pakistan has a consensus about maintaining the minimum nuclear deterrence and it will continue to maintain that deterrence.

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