ISLAMABAD   -   The opposition in the Thursday’s National Assembly budget proceedings again failed to defeat the treasury in voting on the cut-motions as the government continues to maintain its numerical strength.

The joint opposition twice challenged PTI government on two cut-motions of different ministries claiming that they were in majority and hence capable of approving their budgetary proposals.

The cut motions are considered a test to gauge the strength of the government in the house. If such a motion is adopted, it amounts to a no-confidence vote and the government falls.

The government, in the first attempt of opposition, defeated them with 26 votes. The opposition with 143 MNAs challenged the government whose 169 members were found to be present in the house.

In the second attempt, the opposition with her 136 members challenged the government but were beat by 36 votes as the treasury had 172 MNAs in the house at the time.

Interestingly, the bigwigs from both sides of aisle   Prime Minister Imran Khan, Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif and PPP Co-chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari   were present in the house when the opposition apparently attempted to show its strength.

RUMPUS OVER USE OF EXPUNGED WORD

The house saw a rumpus when the Leader of Opposition in NA Shehbaz Sharif twice uttered a word about Prime Minister Imran Khan which has already been banned by the chair.

Sharif used the banned word for the prime minister in his presence, provoking a strong reaction from the government lawmakers, who stood in their seats and chanted: ‘Gali Gali mein shor hey, Shehbaz Sharif Chor hey’. The chair asked the opposition leader not to use the banned word in the house.

Speaker Asad Qaisar, issued ruling, asking the media not to use the expunged word. “If it is used by the media, it will be considered as breach of privilege of the House,” he said.

Opposition leader, speaking on issue of raise in electricity tariffs, said that their (PML-N) government had not slated expensive LNG projects, as is often alleged. He claimed that at that time the then government had cut the electricity price to almost half of what was proposed by Nepra.

He said the debt burden of Pakistan increases by Rs100 billion when the local currency is devalued by one rupee against dollar. Shehbaz said that the defence budget had also been reduced from $9.7 billion to $7.6 billion mainly due to devaluation of rupee.

 PRODUCTION ORDER OF WAZIRISTAN MNAs

The lawmakers from main opposition parties requested the Speaker to issue production order of members from North Waziristan to complete the house during budget session.

PPP MNA Naveed Qamar and PML-N MNA Barjees Tahir, speaking on cut motions, asked the chair to make the budget legitimate by issuing production orders of Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir.

About ECC's decision to hike prices, Naveed asked government to review its decision. He opposed the decision of imposing tax on LNG.

PML-N central leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that increase in prices of petroleum products was a bad decision as it will increase miseries of the masses. He said that there was a need to control circular debt issue as soon as possible.

Barjees Tahir asked the government to control loadshedding in different areas of country. Suspending supply to the areas where some elements were involved in electricity theft was no solution, he added.

 WINDUP DEBATE ON CUT-MOTION

Minister-in-charge for Finance Hammad Azhar, winding up debate on cut-motions, dispelled the impression that PTI’s government has reduced the budget of education and health.

He informed that 35 percent more funds have been reserved for Higher Education Commission in lieu of development expenditure while 14 billion rupees have been approved for knowledge based economy. He said health budget has been enhanced from 8 to 13 billion rupees.

The minister said substantial amount of funds has been allocated for a number of projects in southern Punjab.

About FBR performance, he claimed Federal Bureau of Revenue has done a good job in just ten months by integrating data of over 50 million people. He said the government has implemented benami rules.

Hammad also announced three honorariums for the staff of various departments, who performed duty during the budget session.

He said the government had borrowed Rs2,400 billion contrary to opposition’s claims of Rs7,000 billion during the first 10 months of its tenure. “ We have borrowed Rs2,400 internally and externally this year,” he said.

On Thursday, the House approved 53 demands for grants relating to power and petroleum divisions, and interior and defence ministries while rejecting all the cut motions with majority vote.

Interior Minister Brig (r) Ejaz Shah, speaking on some cut motions, was of the view that devolution of subject of interior to provinces had reduced powers of the federal ministry. He said that the threat perception keeps on changing from time to time. “No cut should be made on his ministry’s demands for grants [therefore],” he proposed.