ISLAMABAD: Minister for Finance and Revenue, Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar on Monday tabled the Money Bill 2023 before the National Assembly (NA) to decide and discuss funds allocation for the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections.
The minister tabled the Bill titled “Charge Sum for General Election Provincial Assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bill 2023” in the light of the federal cabinet decision during the 51st session of the National Assembly.
Setting the context for the Bill, Senator Ishaq said this House passed a resolution in the light of the multiple verdicts of the Supreme Court to assert that the Supreme Court decision of majority decision was 4-3, which has negated the suo moto notice.
However, he said the house also emphasized upon the government not to implement the 3-0 decision of the Apex Court which was a minority verdict and should not be implemented in its resolution.
The finance minister underlined that the federal cabinet, in its recent meeting in the light of the resolution of this house, deliberated upon the Supreme Court decision and decided that the Apex Court decision to allocate funds for provincial assemblies’ elections of KP and Punjab should be tabled before this house, which should decide the matter.
He added that the Supreme Court in its decision had directed the federal government to provide Rs. 21 billion to the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold provincial elections. “These elections would be held without general elections of the National Assembly, Sindh and Balochistan assemblies,” he said.
The Money Bill 2023 was tabled in the light of the federal government’s decision as per article 81-E of the Constitution, the minister added.
He vowed that the coalition government was determined under the leadership of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to purge the country from the menace of terrorism and pull out the country of its economic, political and constitutional crises so that prosperity and development would be the fate of the nation as usual.
The Speaker announced that the Bill was automatically referred to the committee.
Ishaq Dar, in the preamble of his speech, mentioned that from July 2022 to till date Pakistan has repaid 12 billion dollars in foreign debt. “We are paying each foreign payment in time,” he said.
He said that Pakistan had 9.6 billion foreign exchange reserves at present. “Pakistan reserves stand at a total of $9.60 billion — $4.10 billion available with the State Bank of Pakistan and $5.50 billion of commercial banks,” he added.
The minister said that a strategy had been devised by the government to take the country’s foreign exchange reserves to $13 billion by June 30.
He said that the government, under the leadership of PM Shehbaz Sharif, had also improved its relations with friendly countries and international partners.
The minister said that the government had also taken measures to stop the illegal flight of capital from the country which were showing encouraging signs.
He said the prime minister had recently announced austerity measures which would be adopted to control the country’s expenditures.
He said that the government had designed a policy to end the un-targeted subsidy and provide targeted subsidy to deserving low-income people. He said that funds for the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) had also increased from Rs. 360 billion to Rs 400 billion.
He said that the government believed in the supremacy of the Parliament and upholding the constitution and law of the land. He regretted that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf under a planned conspiracy tried to create constitutional and legal crises in the country.
He was of the view that PTI had insulted people’s mandate by tendering their resignation from the membership of the National Assembly.
He said that the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were dissolved on instructions of Imran Khan before the legitimate period just to create uncertainty in the country.
The minister said that the elections would be held in the country as per the law and constitution, but they should be conducted across the country on the same day under the supervision of caretaker governments.
He was of the view that holding elections in the country simultaneously would decrease the total expense and ensure fairness and transparency. He said the constitution ensures the supremacy and sovereignty of the parliament.
Ishaq Dar said that due to the faulty policies of the PTI-led government, the country’s security, economic and internal issues indicated that holding immediate elections was not in the interest of the country.
He said that the process of the census was near completion at the cost of about Rs. 35 billion.
The minister said, “Confusion has been created about my attending the IMF meeting. There are speculations about my participation in the IMF session, the schedule of which was issued several weeks before these meetings.”
“I have cancelled my US visit in these circumstances on the instructions of the prime minister,” Ishaq Dar said.
He said that Pakistan was very close to signing the staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is satisfied with the actions taken by the government to revive the loan programme.
The minister said that PML-N in its previous tenure 2013-18 had completed the first-ever IMF programme in the country’s history by completing all 12 reviews of the programme. He assured that his team was committed to completing the programme to the “best” of their abilities.
Ishaq Dar criticized PTI’s government for its economic policies by saying that a shattered economy was handed over to the coalition government.
Lashing out at former prime minister Imran Khan, the Finance Minister said that he not only harmed the development institutions and fuelled inflation in the country, but had also increased foreign debt. He deplored that during the last four years, the country’s debt had risen by four times and interest on these loans had multiplied.
Dar said that petty politics was being played on the economic situation of the country by spreading rumours about default, which he termed totally a non-sense attitude.
The economic crisis the previous government left was even deeper and more complex than that in 2013 and the 1990s. However, with the prudent policies of the incumbent government, the country had come out of a quagmire, he stressed.
“We are now in a position to move forward with full confidence”, he said adding that Pakistan had the resilience to meet the challenges as it had huge resources to cope with the problems.
He said that it pained him to see the economy fall to the rank of 47 in 2022 after it was predicted that Pakistan would join G20 by the end of 2030.