Opposition stages walkout in NA protesting over PIA privatisation, new taxes

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Opposition in Lower House of the Parliament staged a joint walkout from the National Assembly against the proposed privatisation of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and imposition of new taxes.

Opposition parties held a meeting with the Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah to decide their strategy for protest. The opposition then walked out of the House against the privatisatizsation of PIA. The session of the assembly was attended by PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi, MQM leader Iqbal Mohammed Ali, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed of Awami Muslim League and Sahibzada Tariq-ullah of Jamaat-e-Islami.

While the opposition leader declared PIA Ordinance a lollipop, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Rs 40 billion had been levied in new taxes after the government failed to collect the revenue.

Khursheed Shah said that the nation was being misrepresented, and questioned that if the government did not have funds, then why did it make such big claims of building Metro bus projects with the cost of Rs 50 billion? He said that the prime minister could resolve the issue after coming to the House.

Syed Khursheed Shah criticised Prime Minister Nawz Sharif for not attending assembly proceedings. He said that the opposition would not allow imposition of new taxes of Rs 40 billion.

A week earlier, the central government had imposed Rs 40 billion in additional taxes by imposing 5-10 per cent regulatory duty on import of 61 “luxury” items, increasing duty by 5 per cent on another 289 items and levying 1 per cent additional customs duty on thousands of other items.

Talking to reporters outside parliament, Khursheed Shah said that the opposition would not allow government to privatise PIA and other government institutions.

He said that issuing one ordinance after another was inappropriate and the practice must stop. “Think and understand before making any decisions,” he added.

He questioned as to why there was such a haste in the matter of PIA’s privatisation. “Is this haste actually an attempt for someone to make a windfall out of this deal?” he asked.

When pointed out that over-employment during PPP’s former tenure led to the present state of affairs in the PIA, the opposition leader said the salaries were not the major issue but that there were many hidden things.

Those who staged walkout from National Assembly included members of Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and JI.