Former premier expresses concern over Commission of Inquiry

Former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi criticised the constitution of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the rise in debts over the last decade during his speech in the National Assembly.

The Cabinet Division had yesterday issued a notification announcing the terms of reference of the 12-member commission that is to be headed by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Deputy Chairman Hussain Asghar. The commission will probe how foreign debts swelled to Rs24 trillion over the past 10 years.

Apart from Asghar, the commission includes one representative from NAB, Federal Investigation Agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Intelligence Bureau (IB), State Bank of Pakistan, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, Federal Board of Revenue, Auditor General of Pakistan, Accountant General of Pakistan Revenue, Military Intelligence and special secretary of Finance Division each.

Expressing concern over the move, Abbasi said that members of the NAB, ISI and IB will now question the parliament and the budgets passed by the House.

“Those [who have] no basic knowledge about economy will review the decisions of the prime ministers, Parliament and cabinets,” the PML-N stalwart said.

Abbasi also expressed scepticism over the ambitious revenue target of Rs5,550 billion set by the government in the proposed budget and asked: “[Government has been] unable to collect Rs4,000bn, how will it achieve a target with an additional Rs1,550bn?”

“The only way [to achieve the revenue target] is by further increasing inflation and prices of electricity and gas and devaluing the rupee even more,” he said.

The former premier pointed out the difference between the amount of money allocated to interest payment in the 2019-20 budget and last year’s budget.

“Previous government was paying Rs1,400bn interest on foreign loans. This government has allocated Rs2,900bn for interest.

“This budget has been drawn up by the IMF (International Monetary Fund),” he declared.

Expressing concern over the deteriorating situation of the economy, the PML-N leader said: “Only one year ago, GDP (gross domestic product) was around 6 per cent and inflation was 4pc. Within 10 months, the growth has come down to 50pc and inflation has increased by 100pc.”

“If this is the state of economy in 10 months then what will happen in five years?”

He said that the dire economic situation was the result of the incompetency of rulers.

“Because of the incompetency of the government we had to reduce our defence budget… These rulers have put the country’s national security at stake.”

Abbasi was also critical of government’s decision to include those people in the tax net who earn more than Rs50,000 a month, calling it “unjustified”. The former premier said that the government had lost the confidence of the masses.

“Can you justify the imposition of [additional] taxes with your luxurious lifestyle and expenditures?” he asked. “People will not pay taxes until the rulers pay taxes.”

Abbasi also urged the speaker to issue the production orders of two more MNAs who are currently under arrest. He was referring to Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir, who are currently under police custody and are facing multiple charges including murder, attempted murder and interference in official affairs after the May 26 Kharqamar checkpost incident in North Waziristan.

‘Why would I ask for an NRO now?’

Former president Asif Ali Zardari, who is being investigated by NAB in connection to a case pertaining to fake accounts, denied claims that he had asked for a National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) from the government.

“Why would I ask for an NRO now when I didn’t ask for it eight months ago?” he responded to a question by a journalist outside the National Assembly. Zardari was brought to the parliament by NAB authorities so he could attend the sitting, after Speaker Asad Qaiser issued his production orders.

When asked what he thought of the government’s agreement for a Charter of Economy, the PPP co-chairperson said: “Let the prime minister explain his stance on the Charter of Economy, then we will discuss [the development] with the party. We will also consult other opposition parties before giving a response.”

Ayaz Sadiq meets Asif Zardari, Shahbaz

Former speaker Ayaz Sadiq held a meeting with Zardari and PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif.

“Zardari and I agreed that we have to work towards the betterment of the country,” he told journalists outside the National Assembly.

He said that both Zardari and Sharif had suggested that a Charter of Economy be formed.