Bilawal declines to speak on budget in National Assembly

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Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the Chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Foreign Minister, has chosen not to address the budget in the National Assembly.

Syed Naveed Qamar, the Federal Minister for Commerce and the parliamentary group leader of PPP in the National Assembly, confirmed that Bilawal Zardari would not be speaking on the budget in the NA. Importantly, Bilawal did not participate in the high-level negotiations with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) regarding budget proposals and the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) allocations for Sindh, which is considered a contentious issue between the two coalition partners.

The first round of negotiations, chaired by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and aimed at resolving the issue of budgetary allocations for flood victims in Sindh and other fiscal matters, concluded on Monday evening. This development is seen as a setback in light of the emerging differences between the PPP and the ruling PML-N. While PPP members of the National Assembly have criticized certain aspects of the national budget in their speeches, they have no plans to bring forth cut motions in the budgetary allocations. If any member were to table such proposals, it would be seen as acting in the role of the opposition.

The general discussion on the budget, initially scheduled to conclude on June 17, was extended for two days in anticipation of Bilawal’s speech. The adoption of the Finance Bill and supplementary budget has also been postponed by a day, with the budget now set to be passed on Saturday, June 24, instead of a day earlier.

Sources reveal that an amendment to the Pakistan Election Act, which was passed by the Senate last week to reduce disqualification from contesting elections to five years for any offense, will be presented in the National Assembly this week. It is likely that this approved amendment bill will be submitted on Saturday, coinciding with President Alavi’s departure for Hajj in Saudi Arabia. In all likelihood, the acting president will give his assent to convert it into law.