The PML-N on Thursday walked out of the National Assembly, accusing the government of sabotaging Mian Nawaz Sharif’s trip to Quetta.

On a point of order, PML-N’s Lt General (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch alleged that Nawaz’s flight to Quetta was inordinately delayed to deliberately block him from visiting Balochistan. Denying the charge, Minister for Religious Affairs Khurshid Ahmad Shah said the government had not created any hurdles in Nawaz’s viist but had actually extended all facilities to him to visit and stay in the province.

He said the PML-N leader frequently used the Punjab CM’s helicopter and if he really wanted to visit Balochistan, he could have used the copters for that purpose also.

Shah asked Nawaz to go to Balochistan and work for the resolution of problems faced by the province. “Its not our tradition to stop political leaders from engaging in political activity. We are ready to facilitate Nawaz Sharif in Balochistan even if he wants to stay there for two months,” Shah said. “The PML-N should not resort to petty politics since the people will not accept it. The present PPP government has rejected the politics of the past and embarked on the politics of reconciliation and harmony.” Later, Shah brought the PML-N back into the house.

During the budget debate, the opposition did not find any positive aspects to the budget while the PPP and the PML-Q said it had provided relief to the people.

Khawaja Khan Muhammad Hoti, an angry ANP legislator, came down hard on the government and rejected the budget saying that it contained no incentives for poor segments of society. He said levying 8 percent tax on sugar was unfair while luxury items like beverages, chocolates, cheese, toffees, cosmetics, electronic equipment, air conditioners and deep freezers had become cheaper. “Are these the thing that the poor need? Is this what we should expect from those who claim to be poor friendly and keep raising the slogan of ‘Roti, Kapra Aur Makan’,” he asked.

“Wrong allocations have been made in the budget and it is bound to fail. Sales tax exemptions to most sectors have been withdrawn while sales tax has been imposed on defence stores, textile, canned milk, spices, CNG buses and CNG cylinders. Even medical and life saving items, surgical tapes, ultrasound gel, diapers, ambulance, computer soft wares, bricks, and cement have not been spared,” Hoti added.

He came down hard on the government for not implementing the recommendations of the Pay and Pension Commission, which he said was a grave injustice to the working class.

Riaz Fatyana of the PML-Q welcomed the reduction in the GST rate and suggested the reorganisation of Federal Bureau of Revenue to make revenue collection more effective and efficient. He said the government should focus on hydel projects to generate cheap electricity and should redesign the Kala Bagh dam in consensus with the provinces and use it only for electricity generation and not for irrigation purposes.

Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan Abbasi of the PML-N urged the government to revisit its foreign policy and follow a policy that served the interests of the country. He voiced concern over the non-implementation of unanimous resolutions passed by the parliament.

Syed Asif Hasnain of the MQM said all sectors including agriculture should be brought into the tax net to overcome the economic crisis. He demanded a reduction in the mark up rate for the promotion of the industrial sector.

Dr Attiya Inayatullah of the PML-Q said the federal government should sit with the provincial governments and evolve a strategy to achieve macro-economic stability. She said there was a need for a paradigm shift in the energy sector to meet the growing electricity demand. “We should not turn Kalabagh Dam into a political issue because this dam, like Diamer Bhasha, is important for our water security,” she added.

Hanif Abbasi of the PML-N said the government had failed to deliver and solve the problems of the people in its three and a half years in power. He suggested that the government tax those persons investing in capital markets as well as real estate sectors.

Mehreen Anwar Raja of the PPP rejected the opposition’s criticism of the performance of the government saying that opposition should demonstrate maturity and give proposals for addressing challenges faced by the country. Welcoming the increase in the salaries and pensions of government employees, she said the allocation for the BISP should be further enhanced.

Pervez Malik of the PML-N urged the government to improve the budget by involving all stakeholders in the process. He said the budget carried no direction for poverty reduction or agriculture and industrial productivity.

Maulvi Asmatullah said it was the fourth budget of the present government but regrettably had done nothing to extend relief to the poor class. Fauzia Ejaz Khan said the government should enhance minimum wages of workers since the existing amount of Rs7000 was insufficient to meet their daily requirements