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Opposition ‘plans’ protest during NA, Senate budget sessions – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Opposition parties on Thursday announced that they would lodge a strong protest inside the Parliament House during the presentation of the federal budget on Friday (today). They said they would decide the mode of protest at meetings planned before the start of the National Assembly and Senate sessions.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) convened separate meetings of their parliamentary groups at the Parliament House on Thursday to discuss a strategy for the budget session.

The leaders of both parties lambasted the government’s decision to present a full-year budget, terming it “illegal and unconstitutional”. The opposition wants the government to present a budget only for one quarter, saying that the rulers cannot snatch the right of deciding a budget from the next government expected to come into power in August, after the general elections.

The PPP’s parliamentary leader in the National Assembly, Syed Naveed Qamar, said the opposition parties had no choice but to lodge a protest over the government’s “unconstitutional act”. He alleged that the government did not believe in the rule of law.

Mode of protests to be decided before start of proceedings

Mr Qamar said they were anticipating that the government would present a “populist” budget ahead of the election and announce some measures which would make it difficult for the next government to scrap, as it might make the step unpopular.

Responding to a question, Mr Qamar said the opposition could go to any length and a complete boycott of the budget session could not be ruled out.

Talking to Dawn, PTI’s parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that in recent meetings with government representatives, they had asked NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq to intervene and urge the government to present the budget for a quarter only. He said they wanted the speaker to give them the floor before the budget speech so that they could present their point of view. However, he said, if the opposition was not allowed to speak, they would have no choice but to protest.

Mr Qureshi wondered how a government, whose term was about to end in a month, could present the budget for a whole year. He said what the next government was to do if the present government included some impossible measures in the budget. He said the present government had already presented five budgets as per the Constitution and it had no right to present the sixth budget.

“We are doing what we preach,” he said, referring to the party’s decision to present the budget for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for four months only.

Speaking at a news conference, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Sherry Rehman said the government had no “moral right” to present a budget for a full fiscal year. She said PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had already termed it “pre-poll rigging”.

“The PML-N’s economic policies have been disastrous for Pakistan. It is extremely shocking that irregularities worth up to Rs8 trillion have been found in the federal government accounts. This figure is almost double the amount allocated for the fiscal year’s federal budget,” she said.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2018

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