The National Assembly on Wednesday witnessed heated exchange of words between PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Bilawal claimed that the government “rigged” yesterday’s vote on the federal budget.

He said that according to the rules, the speaker was obligated to carry out a count when a voice vote was challenged and it was not a matter of his “choice”.

Bilawal said that the final vote on the budget was what really mattered and that some treasury members had exhibited “irresponsible behaviour” at the time, lamenting the fact that members from the opposition benches were missing as well.

“If you had carried out the count, we would’ve at least brought our stance on record. I stood up at the time of the last vote and challenged your ruling, but you stood up and left,” Bilawal said, addressing National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser.

As a result, the budget’s legitimacy was undermined, he said.

“Is it not rigging if we can’t record our vote during the budget debate or during the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) debate. Is this not against the rules,” he questioned.

SHAH MEHMOOD QURESHI: The foreign minister criticised the PPP chairman for levelling allegations of violating parliamentary tradition.

“The speaker is the custodian of the house and his character had been targeted by the opposition. You can have reservations about the speaker’s decision, but you take it up in his chamber. You don’t confront them on the floor of the house,” Qureshi said.

He lambasted the PPP chairman that in Sindh, the government did not allow the opposition leader to speak.

He said that the charter of diplomacy states that the chairmanship of the provincial Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is given to the opposition. “Have you done that? Have you given the opposition representation in the provincial standing committees? What parliamentary tradition are you talking about?”

The minister also questioned the basis on which Bilawal had challenged the legitimacy of the budget. “In Sindh, the opposition is not being allowed to speak,” he said, referring to the barring of at least eight opposition lawmakers from the Sindh Assembly.

In comparison, the opposition is being given more time in the National Assembly.

He also questioned the absence of Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif during yesterday’s session.

“The leader of the opposition wasn’t present during the debate on the finance bill while 25 PML-N members were missing,” he said.

He stated that the opposition would not be able to suppress the government by making noise, holding the former responsible for spoiling the atmosphere of the lower house.

AHSAN IQBAL: Meanwhile, PML-N general secretary Ahsan Iqbal termed the statement of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari Shehbaz Sharif in the National Assembly as childish.

Talking to the media outside the Parliament House, he said that it was the job of the opposition to point out flaws in the budget.

Ahsan Iqbal said the government had to withdraw taxes worth Rs300 billion when the opposition pointed out.

About Shehbaz Sharif’s absence, he said everyone knew that he had to attend the funeral of his cousin due to which he could not attend the National Assembly session.


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