ISLAMABAD - The challenge of water scarcity being faced by the country echoed in the Senate on Friday emphasising the need for taking appropriate steps for water conservation through reservoirs, including building of Kalabagh dam.

“Construction of Kalabagh Dam should not be made a taboo in view of the serious water shortages faced by the country”, said Minister of State for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal while responding to a point of order raised by Leader of Opposition Sherry Rehman. 

Speaking on a point of order, Senator Rehman said the country is faced with the challenge of water scarcity and steps needed to be taken on urgent basis to ensure water conservation and to build water reservoirs.

Minister of State for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal agreed with the proposals of the opposition leader and said that one hundred billion rupees have been proposed in the budget for construction of Diamer Bhasha and Dasu dams.

He said construction of Kalabagh Dam should also not be made a taboo in view of the serious water shortages faced by the country.

Meanwhile, speaking in the Upper House, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb called upon the political institutions to stand together for freedom of media and expression.

She regretted the incident of scuffle between police and journalists at D.Chowk in Islamabad yesterday. She said a committee has been constituted and its report will be presented before the House. Other members also condemned the incident and said that they stand for the freedom of media in the country.

The House continued its debate on the national budget for 2018-2019 in which seven members from the treasury and opposition benches took part.

While taking part in the debate, Senator Muhammad Ayub voiced concerns over rising burden of debts on the country. We need to adopt austerity measures and focus on growth in order to turn the country into a developed one, he added.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmad said the budget is anti-people as carries no relief for farmers, working class and youth.  He said the government should announce a mega development package for FATA. He said that all the political parties sit together and formulate a charter of economy aimed at taking the country forward on the path of sustainable development.

Senator Nuzhat Sadiq appreciated the steps taken by the government for empowerment of women. She also enumerated the projects initiated by the present government to overcome power shortages. Senator Muhammad Ali Shah Jamot said the government has increased indirect taxes which will add to the woes of common man. He said the ratio of direct taxes should be increased in order to provide relief to the poor segments of the society.

Senator Maula Bakhsh Chandio pointed out good governance is vital to achieve the targets set in the budget. He said that hands of the provinces should be further strengthened to address matters pertaining to internal security.

Senator Naseebullah Bazai said that the government should focus on the development of small provinces. He said such course is vital to ensure a strong federation.

Senator Khanzada Khan asked the government to withdraw the increase in petroleum development levy. Otherwise, he said, it would increase the fares of transport and push up the prices of essential commodities.

The House which met with Chairman Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani was adjourned to meet again on Monday to continue discussion on the budget for the next fiscal year.