MNAs want Senate proposals incorporated in bill

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As the National Assembly is all set to conclude the budget debate today (Friday), parliamentarians from both treasury and opposition benches on Thursday emphasised the need for incorporating the Senate’s recommendations on budget in the finance bill.
Amid expression of reservations on the utilisation of development funds in the FATA region, Ahsan Iqbal of the PML-N and Yasmeen Rehman from the PPP asked the government to not neglect the Senate’s recommendations on the budget as they did in the previous years. PML-Q MNA and Minister for Health Riaz Hussain Pirzada defended the military establishment saying the criticism on the armed forces was detrimental for the country.
“There was one institution on which we could feel proud but the unhealthy criticism on military will destroy the armed forces with no benefit for the country and the nation,” Pirzada said. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani assured the National Assembly that action would be taken against the bureaucrat who had misbehaved with MNA Shagufta Sadiq.
Responding to a point of order by MQM deputy parliamentary leader Haider Abbas Rizvi, the prime minister said he would not talk about the proceedings of the House and the Library Committee as it came under the domain of the speaker. Taking part in the budget debate, Munir Orakzai from FATA said FATA was being ignored in development budget. He said the hefty funds were sought from foreign countries in the name of FATA but were not being used for the development and welfare of people of the area.
He said Rs 15 billion was earmarked for FATA in the current budget but only Rs 8.7 billion was provided so far. Orakzai said the incumbent government announced 3 D policy (dialogue, development and deterrence) for addressing FATA issue. However, he said deterrence option was being used for the last three years instead of dialogue and development.
Orakzai said FATA was rich in natural resources and minerals including oil, coal, gas and large reserves of chromite. “If the government provides guidance and technical assistance, FATA cannot only generate revenue for itself but can bear the burden of half if Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s expenditure,” he said. He saluted the armed forces for their sacrifices, adding that the army should consult the elders and representatives of FATA on all issues pertaining to the areas.
The leaders from FATA seconded the suggestion by Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao that a trust should be set for the people of FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the rest of the country who had been suffering from terrorism. PPP’s Yasmeen Rehman said the recommendations proposed by the senators for strengthening collection of tax and revenue system would improve the tax net. PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal said the 18th Amendment had further empowered the Senate with regard to the budget.
He said after a thorough debate on the budget, the senators had given relevant recommendations and there were leakages of Rs 250 to 400 billion in government corporations and no steps had been taken to check it. He stressed for giving top priority to the energy sector and said incentives should be announced for the private sector in hydel power generation projects. Iqbal had more budget allocation was needed for education and health. The PML-N leader said law and order should be given top priority and more funds should be allocated for training and capacity-building of police and intelligence agencies.
Awami National Party (ANP) lawmakers proposed for enhancing the role of parliament in the budget process as the legislators were only allowed to deliver speeches after this important national document had been prepared. “We are representatives of the people and we should prepare the budget. Parliament must have a greater role than anybody else in the budget,” MNA ANP Bushra Gohar said. She suggested the National Assembly’s Finance Committee should to start working for the next budget.
MNA PPP Ejaz Jakhrani hailed the budget, and accused the PML-N for not paying taxes. He reminded the PML-N of sacrifices rendered by the PPP for democracy. Tasneem Siddiqui of the PML-N said all hydro power projects including the Kalabagh Dam must be completed without any delay to end the energy crisis. She said the expenditure of 21-22 grade officers on petrol equaled the salary of a parliamentarian, which should be curtailed.