NA unanimously passes defence budget


–Demand of Grants approved for Power Division and Petroleum Division

–Ruckus mars budget session as Shehbaz calls Imran ‘selected’ premier

–Omar Ayub criticises previous govts for current economic crisis



ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly (NA) on Thursday rejected 323 cut motions presented by the opposition while passing the Rs1.163 trillion defence budget without any objections.

Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar presented Demands of Grants worth Rs227.15 billion and Rs25.62 billion for the Power Division and Petroleum Division respectively, which were accepted by the House.

Meanwhile, ruckus marred the session when Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif called Imran Khan a “selected” premier despite the usage of the word being barred in the House. Speaker Asad Qaiser subsequently expunged the word from Shehbaz’s speech but the opposition leader continued using the word while criticising the premier for the hike in inflation and recent devaluation of the rupee.

The speaker directed the media to avoid reporting the expunged words from the proceedings.

Objecting to Federal Minister for Power Omar Ayub Khan’s statement about the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government abandoning renewable energy projects to accommodate expensive Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plants, the opposition leader challenged the factuality of his statement.

While criticising the previous regimes on the floor of the House, Omar had said that the incumbent government paid Rs100 in electricity dues of Prime Minister Office which had been accumulated over the last five years. He said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is paying the price for the “wrong policies” of the previous governments and blamed them for the worsening economic situation.

He said that the government has decided against renewing agreements with independent power producers as there is an extra burden of Rs200 billion on the national exchequer.

The minister said that the previous PML-N government had only focused on winning elections which is why it did not take action against power thieves during its last year. “We registered 30,000 First Information Reports (FIR) against power thieves and took action against 500 officials who were actively supporting it,” he said, adding that the incumbent government is “clearing the landmines laid by previous governments”.

He said that the PTI government had revived 250 renewable energy projects which were blocked by the previous governments.

Rejecting the allegations against his government, former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the PML-N government did not increase gas prices and today the country was facing an unprecedented increase in gas prices. “There was surplus electricity and gas in the country during the PML-N tenure,” he claimed, adding that the main issue facing the power sector is power losses.

“The word is that the incumbent government wants to shift the head office of the department to Islamabad but these measures will not resolve the problems,” he added.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) MNA Abdul Qadir Patel who said that Ministry of Energy should renamed to Ministry of Price Hikes, adding that the budget proposed by the government will only add to the miseries of the people.

PML-N leader Khawaja Asif opposed the capacity payment clause in the renewable agreements with the independent power producers. He said that most of these contracts are nearing their expiration date and this clause should be excluded during the renewal process. “We are paying them a huge amount on account of this without getting electricity,” he said.

PPP MNA Syed Naveed Qamar criticised the government for the gas price hike and added that former finance minister Asad Umar had facilitated the export sector by giving them concessions but the current finance regime has withdrawn that support. He questioned whether the government wants to shut down the industries of the country.

He also asked the NA speaker to issue the production orders of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) MNAs Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, saying that the budget would not have legitimacy until they are present in the House. The demand was backed by PML-N’s Barjees Tahir, who said that the speaker should immediately issue the production orders of the detained MNAs.