Opp shames govt for letting ‘un-elected’ Miftah present budget

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  • Opposition members stage walkout to protect ‘sanctity of vote’, as PTI’s Murad Saeed and PML-N’s Abid Sher reach out for each other’s throats
  • PM says it’s Miftah’s right to present budget since he prepared it

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly (NA) on Friday witnessed ruckus as the joint opposition registered a strong protest against the presentation of the federal budget for an entire financial year, a little over a month before the term of government is going to expire.

Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah and PTI Deputy Parliamentary Leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi argued before the budget speech that the federal government should not present budget for the whole year, saying that the rulers cannot snatch the right of deciding it from the next government, expected to come into power in August after the general elections.

At the outset of the session, Khursheed Shah said, “This government has no ethical right to present budget for the entire year.” He added, “We have always stood for the supremacy of the parliament but today, the concept of supremacy of vote has been trampled by a party whose leader talks about ‘sanctity of vote’.”

The opposition leader alleged that the decision, this time again, was being made outside the parliament, terming it against the respect of the House. “This is the first time an unelected person is presenting the budget. Could PM Abbasi not have presented the budget? Even the chief minister has presented a budget in the past,” Khursheed Shah pointed out.

He also called upon the government to give respect to its elected parliamentarians rather than allowing an unelected man [Miftah Ismail] to present the budget.

“What pains me the most is the fact that Nawaz Sharif champions the narrative of ‘Vote ko izzat do’ [respect the vote], and yet PML-N is destroying the honour of the vote by letting an unelected man present the budget,” he argued.

“You had an elected minister, Rana Afzal, but you brought in a person with no mandate through wrong interpretation of the constitution,” said Shah referring to the appointment of Miftah Ismail as the finance minister on Friday morning.

Expressing similar disappointment, Shah Mahmood Qureshi also lashed out at the ruling party for letting an unelected minister present the budget in presence of an elected one.

“A wrong tradition is being set,” he remarked, adding, “The leader of the opposition has said that there is no moral justification for the government to present the full-year budget.”

He highlighted that the budget being presented had not been endorsed by the National Economic Council (NEC). “Three CMs — of Sindh, KP and Balochistan — walked out from the meeting while Punjab CM had already left the meeting. What kind of democracy and government is this where three provinces are strongly expressing their distrust for the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), yet you want to endorse it?” he argued.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi responded to the arguments raised by the opposition saying that “what pains the opposition benches, and their calls for democracy and the constitution are a mere farce”.

“We consider it our responsibility to present a full-year budget as the system needs to continue,” the prime minister remarked, claiming that the PML-N will form the next government as well. “Even if, unfortunately, your [opposition] government comes to power, it will be able to make changes to the budget.”

Defending the decision to allow Miftah Ismail to present the budget, PM said that the decision was taken by the cabinet and there was nothing wrong with it.

“Since Miftah has led the effort to prepare the budget, it is his right to present it too. Rana Afzal is a minister of state and can’t do so. The opposition should have a heart and listen to the budget speech,” he concluded.

‘Saddened’ by the PM’s arguments, Khursheed Shah said, “We are staging a walkout from the house in protest to the government’s decision because we want to protect the ‘sanctity of the vote’.”

Furthermore, amid anti-government slogans, State Minister Abid Sher Ali and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Murad Saeed had an altercation which was prevented from turning into a full-blown fight due to timely intervention by fellow lawmakers from PTI and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

The PTI members gathered around the speaker’s desk, tore apart the budget documents and threw them in the air to register their protest against what they called ‘a budget presented in violation of moral, ethical and historical practices of the parliament’.

The scuffles broke out when PTI lawmakers surrounded Miftah Ismail’s desk and tried to interrupt his speech, with PTI’s Dr Shireen Mazari raising slogans against the budget. Mazari was, however, pushed aside by Abid Sher Ali for getting too close to the finance minister, triggering a response from her saying, “Don’t touch me.”

This infuriated PTI lawmakers Amjad Khan Niazi, Shehryar Afridi and Murad Saeed, who came forward to push Abid Sher Ali back, triggering a litany of abuses as the members tried to assault each other.

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