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No choice other than IMF-dictated budget, NA told

No choice other than IMF-dictated budget, NA told

ISLAMABAD: Accusing the previous Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) regime of bringing the country on the verge of bankruptcy, Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman on Wednesday said the present coalition government had no choice but to present the budget on the dictation and terms of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“This is absolutely an IMF budget. There is no doubt about it,” declared Ms Rehman while taking part in the general debate on the federal budget for the fiscal year 2022-23 in the National Assembly which remained in session for nearly three hours without quorum.

Besides Ms Rehman, almost all lawmakers criticised the PTI government and its leader Imran Khan for allegedly ruining the country’s economy.

“If this is an IMF budget, then who has tied us with the IMF?” she asked while alleging that the PTI government during its four-year rule had taken the country towards a default. The PTI, she said, was still willing to create anarchy in the country after leaving its economy on ventilator.

Opposition stages walkout over absence of ministers

Ms Rehman justified the decision of the coalition parties to form the government after ousting the then prime minister Imran Khan through a vote of no confidence despite knowing that they might have to pay a heavy political price for it in the upcoming general elections and said otherwise the country was heading towards a default like Sri Lanka.

“Pakistan was heading downwards with a great speed like a train on a slippery slope…The new unity government has only put brakes and nothing else. This is called crisis management,” Ms Rehman said, adding that no government wanted to put burden on its masses. At the same time, she told the house that the nation would have to bear some more difficult decisions.

She said first the PTI government tied the new government to the worst IMF agreement and then violated it, leaving the country exposed to the entire multilateral financial system.

“Unfortunately, even after leaving the economy in tatters, they continue to stoke fires of political instability in the country, which is extremely dangerous for Pakistan, especially now,” she said.

“When they [PTI] came to power they said they would end corruption. Instead, Pakistan now ranks 140th in the Trans­parency International Corruption Index, from its previous place of 117th. Let us not forget the foreign gifts that Imran Khan bought at steep discounts only to sell them abroad,” she said, adding the PTI made promises with the IMF, took loans, and spent money on unsustainable programmes.

“This is a poisoned chalice that the PTI has left for us, but as it has in the last two months, this government will take those difficult decisions; there will be hard times and harder times before we get to stabilisation,” she said.

She said the government would have to take tough decisions to break the debt trap and to bring fundamental changes in economic model, putting it back on the right track. She said that over the last 70 years different governments negotiated about 23 IMF programmes but always tried to put minimum burden on the common man.

Opposition’s walkout

Ms Rehman had taken the floor after the opposition led by Opposition Leader Raja Riaz Ahmed staged a token walkout for the first time from the assembly over the absence of ministers and treasury members from the proceedings.

Though, Mr Ahmed had left the assembly hall with another PTI dissident Ahmed Hussain Deharr after announcing complete boycott of the day’s proceedings, they returned to the house within minutes on the persuasion of Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MNA Agha Rafiullah, who had been sent by Deputy Speaker Zahid Akram Durrani to being the protesting lawmakers back.

The absence of the ministers and lack of interest by the members had earlier been pointed out by a number of lawmakers, including Sheikh Rohale Asghar of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Only two ministers were present in the assembly hall when the PML-N member complained about the lack of interest by the members while pointing towards the empty benches.

Earlier, Saira Bano of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) also protested over the absence of the treasury members, stating that the lawmakers were more interested in visiting constituencies for local government election campaign.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2022

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