History was made when the government presented the fifth consecutive budget in the National Assembly becoming the first civilian government to do so. But the Prime Minister’s conviction in the contempt case and other political issues overshadowed and marred the budget session which also witnessed a brawl among legislators. Only 41 legislators (12% of the membership) took part in the debate on budget – much less than 139 legislators (41% of the membership) who spoke on the budgetary proposals during the fourth parliamentary year. In the first sitting some legislators from the opposition and the treasury benches came to blows as the finance minister was making the budget speech, which lasted only 23 minutes because of the opposition’s protest.
Almost 23% of the session time (365 minutes) was consumed by protests and walkouts. The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) legislators staged protests and walkouts in all the sittings. MQM legislators walked out of the House on two occasions over the target killings in Karachi.
Moreover the Leader of the Opposition did not open the general discussion on the budget – a tradition that has been followed in the previous parliamentary years. The main opposition PMLN showed less interest in budget. Only 2% of the total 91 PMLN legislators expressed views during the general debate on budget. Similarly, 16% (14 out of 125) legislators of ruling Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) took part in the debate. Twenty-eight percent (seven out of 25) members of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM); 21% (three out of 13) of Awami National Party (ANP); 16% (eight out of 51) of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML); one Member each of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Party (MMAP) and Pakistan Muslim League Functional (PMLF) took part in the debate. Five Independents also marked their participation by expressing views on budget.
The sole members of the Pakistan People’s Party–Sherpao (PPPS), Balochistan Awami Party (BNPA) and National People’s Party (NPP) remained silent.
Province-wise 19% (eight of the total 43) legislators from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the House participated in the budget debate, followed by 18% legislators each from Balochistan and Federally Administered Tribal
Areas (FATA). Thirteen of the total 75 members from Sindh participated in the budget debate. Despite having the highest representation in the National Assembly, only 8% of the 183 legislators from Punjab took part in the debate.
The PMLN’s disinterest was also evident from the fact that it brought in no Cut Motions. In the fourth and third parliamentary years, the opposition had introduced 471 and 660 Cut Motions respectively. Cut motions are
moved to call for a reduction in the proposed funds allocated for a certain department/ministry in the current budget, and are traditionally presented by the opposition. Therefore, they highlight government and
the opposition priorities, and also are a means to ensure that funds are allocated across areas of governance and public service in a representative and proportionate manner.
The budget session this year lasted 26 hours and four minutes compared to the last year’s 31st session which met for 75 hours and 45 minutes. In other words the budget session lasted 49 hours and 41 minutes less
than the preceding year. The House took only 10 sittings to pass the federal budget.
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