ISLAMABAD: Opposition leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif Tuesday said Pakistan is currently one of the most expensive countries of the world.
While starting the debate on the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2021, he said other countries were reducing taxes, but the PTI government was imposing additional taxes. Addressing Prime Minister Imran Khan, he warned that “if he is unable to see the poor and poverty today, the public will also send the PTI to the world of oblivion during the upcoming elections”. He said when fair and free elections would be held in the country, crores of people of Pakistan would teach his party a lesson. Shehbaz said the opposition would extend support to the government to come out of financial crisis only if it refuses to accept conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“The opposition will support the government if it stands before IMF and refuses to accept its conditions in interests of the country and people,” he said. Shehbaz said the finance minister, in his last budget speech, said that Imran Khan would stand firm before the IMF, but the government introduced the min-budget bill in the House within seven months. He said one billion dollars was not such a big amount which could not be arranged within the country jointly. However, he regretted that the PTI-led government, after destroying the national economy, had become a security risk for the country. “You better resign and go home,” Shehbaz advised Prime Minister Imran Khan and his team.
He said the opposition had given warning to the government but it paid no heed and it was bent upon mortgaging country’s economy. He related Pakistan’s journey of becoming a nuclear state, from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Nawaz Sharif tenures. “How the government will protect country’s nuclear programme while holding the begging bowl,” he said.
Shehbaz said the country never experienced such a ‘sinister government’ which could not handle the Murree tragedy and other issues. He remarked that the government got expertise in only one department which is U-turns.
The speaker asked the members from both sides to listen to the speech with patience after the parliamentarians from the treasury benches started shouting against the opposition leader’s remarks.
Shehbaz pointed out that the government, in the last over three years, imposed over Rs1,700 billion taxes on people. “Asad Umar imposed Rs400 billion taxes, duo of Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Shabbar Zaidi, contributed Rs700 billion to taxes while Shaukat Tarin had already levied Rs300 billion taxes and was getting ready to impose another Rs350 billion to already burden of taxes,” he added.
Shehbaz noted with concern that the government was set to impose and increase General Sales Tax (GST) on infant milk, raw material of medicines, machinery of private and charity hospitals. He said it was strange that the government was imposing GST on machinery of charity hospitals which provide free-of-cost medical treatment whereas the PM himself had imported tax-free machinery for his hospital.
He said it was Imran Khan who used to talk about healthy growth of children. “I want to ask whether imposing the GST on infant milk will help in their growth,” he said. Shehbaz said the PMLN government left behind Rs1,100 billion circular debt, which now had increased to Rs2,700 billion despite record increase in electricity tariffs.
The opposition leader apprehended that the country was set to face record trade deficit due to increase in imports for the ongoing financial year. He said he did not know as to what happened with the sitting finance minister who helped the PMLN government installation of economic power generation projects. “The finance minister is also witness to the fact that we established economic LNG power generation plants, but the incumbents are preparing to import furnace oil,” he said. He pointed out that the PMLN government raised the GDP growth rate to 5pc whereas the present regime brought it down to zero.
He said that he stated on Monday that Rome was burning and Nero was playing the flute, which had been proven by the attitude of rulers.
Shehbaz recalled that the opposition parties supported the government on the FATF issue, but in return the opposition leaders were dubbed as dacoits and thieves. He questioned as to who used to say that the PM is a thief if there is price-hike in the country, and electricity gets expensive. “It were not Nawaz Sharif or Shahid Khaqan Abbasi who, while standing on container, said this,” he recalled.
Later, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar took the floor of the House for a tit-for-tat reply. He said it was the PPP government which approached the IMF programme for seven times while the PMLN regime got IMF loans on four occasions. He also questioned whether the PMLN government left behind a prosperous country. “A video clip of Miftah Ismail is on record in which he then said that titanic of the economy is sinking,” he said.
Asad Umar, while responding to the offer of Shehbaz Sharif’s of support, said the government was ready to sit with them. “But what we will learn from them: how TTs are prepared and how billions of rupees can be deposited in accounts of servants, drawing few thousand rupees salaries.”
Asad said Shehbaz Sharif objected that they were called thieves whereas they themselves used to call those sitting with them the servants of Britishers. “I also want to ask as to who called Asif Ali Zardari ‘Ali Baba 40 chor’ and it was none but Pervaiz Rasheed, the close aide of Nawaz Sharif, who called journalists dogs,” he said.
He pointed out that the PMLN government collected Rs3,800 billion revenue in a fiscal year while the PTI-led government managed Rs4,700 billion revenue collection while braving COVID-19 epidemic.
“Our GDP growth rate increased by 4 per cent despite COVID-19 situation while last year the same increased to 5 per cent,” he said adding the GDP growth by end of ongoing fiscal year would cross 5pc against set target of 4.8pc.
Asad Umar said it seemed that somebody in the opposition was trying to conspire against Shehbaz Sharif and disgrace him by providing him wrong economic figures.
He said they owe success to grace of Almighty Allah, adding that masses would give decision in favour of Imran Khan on the basis of his performance, ability, honesty and patriotism in the 2023 elections.
Without naming Nawaz Sharif, the minister said he should return to the country if he had any grace and dignity. “After all, he had given an undertaking on the stamp paper that he will return,” Asad Umar pointed out.
The government, at the same time, suffered shock in the house as the two main allies of the government, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), also came out with categorical opposition to the min-budget.
“We are not your enemies rather we are your allies and pointing out that the middle class will suffer due to the mini-budget,” Kishwar Zahra of the MQM said, adding that they were government’s allies, but were also the public representatives.
Kishwar Zahra proposed that the government, instead of levying more taxes, should focus on reducing its expenses. “The government should also reduce its army of special assistants and advisors,” she said.
Iqbal Muhammad Ali from the MQM said they were allies of the government but were not consulted on the mini-budget saying that his party had sent 11 amendments to the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2021 to the speaker and the finance minister.
Ghous Bux Mehar of the GDA said the agriculture sector would suffer badly due to imposition of taxes and doing away with subsidies. “The government should refrain from imposing such taxes which can affect efficiency of different sectors,” he said.
JUIF Member Shahid Akhtar Ali said bad intentions of the government were apparent in the mini-budget through which additional Rs343 taxes and duties would be imposed.
Tahira Aurangzeb of PMLN said that the finance minister himself should have been present in the house. Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi, who was presiding over proceedings, directed that finance secretary and other senior officials of the ministry should be present to take notes of debate when the house meets again on Wednesday at 11am.