The Senate Standing Committee on Finance on Wednesday summoned the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman on its next meeting, while it deferred the discussion on the $3 billion loan from Saudi Arabia because of the absence of Prime Minister’s Adviser on Finance Shaukat Tarin.
During the meeting, chaired by its chairman Senator Talha Mahmood, there were heated exchanges between Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Sherry Rehman and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator Faisal Saleem Rehman, which led to walkout from the PPP lawmaker.
The agenda of the committee meeting included the recent loan from Saudi Arabia and its terms, rising inflation, trade deficit and national debt, market uncertainty, the state of economy, upcoming monetary budget and the conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The committee postponed the briefing on the mini budget after it was informed by Finance Secretary Hamid Yaqub Sheikh the mini budget was being worked out and it would presented in the National Assembly after approval from the cabinet.
The finance secretary said that talks were underway with the IMF, adding that an adjustment would have to be made in the original scheme. About the Saudi loan, he said that he took charge only two days ago and did not know the terms of the loan. However, he confirmed that $3 billion had been received.
The chair that they knew that the loan had been received but they wanted to know about the conditions. The committee members said the finance adviser should brief the members on the terms. The matter was deferred till next meeting.
Senator Sherry Rehman slammed the government over the IMF deal, saying that the government had failed to comply with the IMF’s terms. She asked why the IMF conditions were not being shared with the lawmakers.
Senator Faisal Rehman responded that it was not appropriate to talk on this matter before an agreement was reached. He advised that political statements on this important matter should be avoided. Sherry Rehman said that it was not right to stop her from speaking and veto my remarks.
The chair intervened, saying that 10 minutes had passed, now questions should be asked. However, his remarks angered Senator Sherry Rehman, who said: “I have the right to speak my mind. I have the right to ask question and I have the right to give observation.”
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Senator Faisal Rehman said that he would also reveal what the PPP did when the party was in government. He added that most of the loans were taken by the previous PPP government. This government had not borrowed much.
Sherry Rehman said that petrol and gas prices had gone up and inflation was rising, adding that the country topped in the region in terms of inflation. The committee chairman repeatedly scolded Sherry Rehman at which the PPP senator walked out of the meeting in protest.
In the meeting, the committee chairman remarked that make-up items would also become more expensive in the mini budget. At which, Senator Sherry Rehman said that these remarks were tantamount to gender discrimination.
Senator Sadia Abbasi said that the agenda of the committee was of utmost importance. She added that the finance adviser and the NAB chairman should have attended the committee meeting and provided the details. The chair then summoned the NAB chairman in the next meeting.
Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) officials informed the committee that the import of petrol during the first five months of the current fiscal year was Rs373 billion compared with Rs 174 billion during the same period last year, adding that there was slight difference in quantity.
Crude oil imports increased from Rs175 billion to Rs336 billion, natural gas from Rs145 billion to Rs322 billion, diesel from Rs76 billion to Rs180 billion and coal rose from Rs63 billion in the first five months of last year to Rs163 billion in the same period this year.
The chair told the committee members that he had been the chairman and member of various committees of the upper house for the last 17 years but it was unfortunate that the committees which used to take legislation and other measures in the interest of the country were now looking at politics.
“This is a sad trend. Parliamentary committees must transcend political affiliations, Senator Talha Mahmood said. “Personal agendas affect the effectiveness of committees,” he added. He said that would request Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjarani to take notice of this situation.