ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at the National Assembly’s budget session a day after the government smoothly passed the 2021-22 budget bill.
The Prime Minister, as he began to speak, called on the opposition to work with the government on electoral reforms. “After 1970 all the elections were controversial,” he said.
The prime minister said the recently held side polls and senatorial elections had also sparked controversy.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said the government had considered how to make the elections acceptable to all parties, and reminded the opposition that electoral reforms would benefit democracy.
“The time has come to make the country’s elections acceptable to everyone,” he said, adding that in the United States, when former President Trump denigrated the elections, their media and their people have required proof.
“We did the same in 2013. We asked the government of the day to conduct a count in four constituencies, and in all four, the rigging was proven.
“After doing our best […] we have come to the conclusion that EVMs (electronic voting machines) are the only solution, ”he said.
Welcoming Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin and his team, the prime minister said they presented the budget in accordance with his vision. “When we started our struggle 22 years ago, we had one goal in mind: to build an Islamic welfare state – the goal of our founding fathers.
The prime minister said if the country strayed from this goal, there would be “no justification for Pakistan’s existence.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan said the budget reflects the three core principles of PTI – justice, humanity and self-reliance – and praised his finance team for ensuring the budget embodies all three.
The prime minister said the government’s early survival was difficult as it had a huge current account deficit to manage. “The early days of our government were very troubling [….] it was very painful when we had to make difficult decisions that have had and continue to have consequences for people. “
Citing the example of Turkey, he said, when Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power, even his government took loans from the International Monetary Fund and faced a difficult period for three years.
Prime Minister Imran Khan thanked Pakistan’s allies – the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and China – who saved Pakistan from default by providing loans.
If we had defaulted, he said, investors would have withdrawn their money from the country’s capital market. “We tried not to approach the IMF, but ultimately we had to. As a result, the coronavirus emerged and hit an already struggling economy.”
On this occasion, the Prime Minister greeted the head of the national command and operations Asad Umar, the special assistant to the Prime Minister in charge of health, Dr Faisal Sultan, the Pakistani army and others involved in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said the coronavirus situation in Pakistan was better than that of countries in the region – and that it was “due to the blessings of Allah and the prayers of the poor”.
Clash between Bilawal and Qureshi
Before the Prime Minister’s speech, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi exchanged impassioned words during a boisterous NA session.
After severely criticizing the government on the provisions of the 2021-22 budget and condemning the legislative process carried out on Tuesday, the PPP chairman left the House.
“He talked a lot about [parliamentariy] procedures; I would also like to talk a bit about the procedures, “said an FM Qureshi enthusiast after Bilawal and former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi spoke.
“Where did he go after giving his speech? I want him to come back,” he added.
“I would like to ask Bilawal Bhutto to return to his seat; come back to the field and listen to us now,” the foreign minister said.
The opposition benches in the National Assembly erupted into thunderous applause when the PPP chairman, accompanied by another deputy, returned to his place.
Later, a war of words erupted between the two leaders when Bhutto searched the foreign minister.
“I would like to ask the prime minister to order the ISI to register Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s phone,” Bhutto quipped. “When he was our foreign minister, he campaigned around the world to make him prime minister, in place of Yousaf Raza Gillani,” he added.
“That is why we sacked him from the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs,” added the leader of the PPP.
The foreign minister responded to the PPP leader’s accusations, telling him that he also knew Bhutto “since he was a little child”.
NA adopts 2021 finance bill by majority
The day before, the government had been able to adopt the budget by majority when many PML-N deputies were absent from the House.
The PPP attended yesterday’s session with 54 of its legislators. Two had not attended the session because they had contracted the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, FM Qureshi, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin and other notable ministers were also present at yesterday’s session.
According to the state-run APP, 240 lawmakers participated in the federal budget debate.
The motion was adopted with a majority vote which led to the adoption of the 2021 finance bill after article by article reading as well as the voice vote with the amendments.