PAKISTAN NEWS ISLAMABAD: Apparently taking cues from their leaderships, members of two main opposition parties in the National Assembly on Thursday called for evolving a joint strategy with the government to tackle the country’s economic woes such as the price hike.
The house began an opposition-sought debate on increases in the prices of items of daily use on the fourth day of its current session after passing two government bills, one of which seeks to enforce the provisions of the 1958 United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards and is aimed to encourage foreign investment.
The two-hour debate, sought through various adjournment motions, was earlier due for Wednesday but was put off until Thursday because of the absence of concerned ministers from the house at the time. It will resume on Friday, when the house is due to meet at 10am.
“It is time to take the country out of the present (economic) crisis rather then engage in quarrels among us,” chief whip Sheikh Aftab Ahmad of the PML-N said although some of his other party lawmakers accused Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s PPP-led coalition government of bad governance and doing little to solve people’s problems in its nearly three years in office.
PPP’s Fauzia Wahab, who was the day’s sole speaker from the treasury benches, described the ‘dismal picture’ of the economy painted by three PML-N members who spoke before her as the reflection of a ‘phase of self-denial’, which she said was contrary to the actual situation reflected by recent figures of profits declared by 75 per cent of Pakistani companies, increase in their sales, particularly in areas seen as lacking purchasing power, growth in agriculture, exports and foreign remittance, and a current account surplus.
But PML-Q member Raza Hayat Hiraj compared what he called a ‘rosy picture’ presented by the PPP information secretary to a Quranic verse’s description of people referred to as “summun, bukmun, umyun, fahum la yarjeoon” (deaf, dumb, and blind and they shall never return, to the right path) before demanding that all party leaders “sit down to identify the causes” of the present crisis and then hammer out a resolve to address them.
PML-N’s Rana Tanveer Hussain, who began the debate with a warning that the situation in the country was ‘moving towards a revolution’ proposed a ‘right-sizing’, or reduction, of the strength of the 342-seat lower house and the cabinet to be among measures to cut government expenses and demanded control on inflation as demanded in a 10-point programme of his party now being negotiated with the PPP.
His party colleague Raja Mohammad Asad called for framing long-term policies instead of resorting to what he called ‘cheap’ populist aimed to seek popularity such as the Benazir Income Support Programme in order to spare politicians the blame of ignoring people’s problems as was usually said in the past about bureaucrats.
MQM member Salahuddin voiced his party’s ‘total sympathy’ for the ruling coalition it quit for only five days early this month – but is yet to rejoin the cabinet – and said a nine-point programme it had given the government earlier could remedy Pakistan’s economic problems.
Earlier, the house adopted, without any debate, the Recognition and Enforcement (Arbitration Agreements and Foreign Arbitral Awards) Bill, which an accompanying statement said was necessary to enforce the provisions of the 1958 UN Convention to which Pakistan was already a signatory.
Based on a 2009 presidential ordinance, the bill must be passed also by the Senate to become law, which, the statement said, “makes provisions for enforcement and arbitration agreements and awards which would encourage foreign investment in our country and help to develop harmonious economic relations in international trade and commerce”.
Its enactment will repeal the old law on the subject, called Arbitration (Protocol and Convention) Act, 1937.
The other bill that the house passed on Thursday was the Boilers and Pressure Vessels (Amendment) Bill, which amends a presidential ordinance of 2002 to enable, according to its accompanying statement, “boiler engineers possessing good health duly certified by a recognised physician to renegotiate their contract with their employers for seeking fresh employment after attaining the age of 60 years”.