ISLAMABAD: The government and the opposition have agreed that the federal budget for the next financial year — to be presented by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Friday (tomorrow) — will be put for a final vote in the National Assembly by June 14.
The understanding was reached between representatives of major parliamentary parties during a meeting of the House Business Advisory Committee just before the beginning of the assembly session here on Wednesday. The meeting was presided over by National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq
During the meeting, the representatives of all parties agreed that general discussion on the federal budget for 2017-18 would start from May 29 and the finance minister would wind up the debate on June 9.
An official announcement issued by the National Assembly Secretariat after the meeting says that voting on demands of grants (cut motions) will begin on June 10 and the session will continue till June 14.
Finance minister will present budget tomorrow
Voting on demands of grants is considered to be a crucial phase of the budget session as the opposition members get the opportunity to move cut motions on ministries.
This is the stage where opposition gets a chance to criticise government performance while seeking a symbolic deduction of Rs10 or Rs100 from the demands of grants for each division and ministry.
Traditionally, opposition members submit cut motions on key ministries, with an understanding with the government.
During the voting, both the government and the opposition make arrangements to ensure maximum participation of their members in the house.
Those who attended the meeting included Law Minister Zahid Hamid, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, Kashmir Affairs Minister Chaudhry Barjees Tahir, Parliamentary Leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party Syed Naveed Qamar, Dr Shireen Mazari and Ghulam Sarwar Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Sheikh Salahuddin of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Sahibzada Tariqullah of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Chaudhry Mohammad Ashraf of the Pakistan Muslim League-N and Shahabuddin Khan from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Later, during the assembly session, the members paid tribute to their colleague Abdul Rahim Mandokhel, who died in Quetta last week. The 81-year-old Mandokhel had won the National Assembly seat from the constituency of NA-260 (Quetta-Chagai) in the 2013 elections on the ticket of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party.
The assembly also passed the amended Companies Bill 2017 with a majority vote. The bill had already been passed by the National Assembly, but the government had to bring it back to the house since the Senate had passed it with some amendments.
During the passage of the voluminous bill, the house witnessed some lighter moments when the speaker made some interesting arguments with the opposition members, particularly with Opposition Leader Syed Khurshid Shah and Dr Shireen Mazari.
The opposition protested over the government’s move to get the bill passed without ensuring quorum. However, though the opposition opposed the bill, it did not point out quorum and only criticised the government over the absence of majority of the ministers.
MQM criticises FIA action
Speaking on a point of order, the MQM’s Syed Ali Raza Abidi condemned recent action taken by the Federal Investigation Agency on the directive of the interior ministry against social media activists for allegedly maligning army.
Mr Abidi said the directives violated fundamental rights of people which allowed them freedom of expression. He alleged that the government was targeting its political opponents through the actions by misusing the controversial cybercrime law.
He recalled that the MQM had opposed the cybercrime law when it was presented before the parliament fearing that the law could be misused for political purposes.
Mr Abidi said on one hand, youth of the country was being harassed through the FIA and, on the other, members of banned organisations were active on social media.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also briefly attended the sitting, but did not speak.