ISLAMABAD; After a delay of 10 days, the National Assembly (NA) session commenced on Monday but deferred discussion on the Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2021, commonly known as the mini-budget, to focus on the Murree tragedy that resulted in at least 22 tourists losing their lives.
The session, chaired by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, was supposed to take up the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, seen as a key condition to revive the $6-billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
However, it was reported that the agenda of the session was modified to discuss the incident in Murree, while the finance bill would be discussed on Tuesday.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif lambasted the government for the Murree tragedy, saying that the incident was a result of the government incompetence and administrative negligence.
“The government only knows one thing, which is to engage in vindictive politics,” he said.
“Did they issue a red alert or make any preparations for the higher influx of the people.”
Responding to Shehbaz's comments, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said that Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken revolutionary steps on the issue of climate change and tourism in Pakistan.
"It's shameful that the opposition is looking at the tragedy as another opportunity. It only reflects their narrow vision and political opportunism. I want to remind the leader of the opposition that when he was chief minister, every day there was an incident," said Fawad.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the information minister was celebrating that thousands of people had reached Murree but when he found out that a tragedy had happened, he started blaming the victims.
“This government has done nothing but blame victims,” he said. "We demand a judicial inquiry to find out the truth. The mere formation of a committee will not result in anything as the government wants to hide facts."
Blaming the government for inflation and economic mismanagement, Bilawal said that the promise of 'Naya Pakistan' has not been fulfilled. “New Pakistan has become expensive Pakistan."
SBP Amendment and Finance (Supplementary) Bills prior conditions for IMF loan
The NA session was set to discuss the two bills the government is seeking to pass ahead of the IMF board meeting.
Last week, the IMF removed Pakistan’s agenda from the Executive Board calendar soon after it announced to take Sixth Review of the $6 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) in its meeting scheduled for January 12.
When contacted, Ministry of Finance spokesperson Muzzammil Aslam, had told Business Recorder that January 12, 2022 was earlier given as a tentative date for the Fund Executive Board meeting on Pakistan.
However, the board will meet after the country has met prior conditions, which includes passage of the two bills.
On Monday, Pakistan' finance ministry confirmed that the IMF has agreed to its request to reschedule the sixth review of the $6-billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF), after earlier stating that it would be held on January 12.
Aslam, in his capacity as spokesperson of the Ministry of Finance, said that the Finance Division "officially requested the IMF to reschedule the meeting of the Board of Director for the approval of 6th review till end January".
Completion of the review would make available SDR 750 million (about $1,059 million), bringing total disbursements under the EFF to about $3,027 million.
Prior NA sessions
On December 31, the approval of the Finance (supplementary) Bill, 2021 and State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was again deferred after the National Assembly (NA) session was adjourned for an indefinite period.
The session commenced with Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri in chair. However, the session was only held for 12 minutes.
The session was adjourned a day after the opposition pointed out the quorum in the House. Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin had laid the bills.
The joint opposition staged a protest against the mini-budget and the bill, saying it is being done on the dictation of the IMF.
Soon after National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser took up the agenda, the opposition parties objected over extension of a bunch of ordinances, saying the constitution as well as a verdict by the Supreme Court of Pakistan categorically say a lapsed ordinance – whether it is lapsed by one day or more – cannot be extended.