ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday claimed that the government had passed the most controversial bill regarding autonomy of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) with the help of ‘telephone calls’ received by ruling coalition legislators and said the legislation would be reversed one day as it was against the country’s ‘economic sovereignty’.

“I want to tell IMF (Inter­national Monetary Fund) that I have no doubt that the legislation regarding State Bank will be reversed because no country can surrender its economic sovereignty just for $6 billion,” Mr Abbasi, who is senior vice president of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, said while addressing a press conference.

Flanked by other senior leaders of the party Miftah Ismail and Khurram Dastagir, the former premier said January 13 was one of the darkest days of the history of Pakistan and its parliament.

“Over Rs700 billion in taxes were imposed on the nation by violating parliamentary rules, conventions and traditions,” he said, adding that Speaker of National Assembly Asad Qaiser and Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri had violated the Constitution on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was also sitting in the house on Thursday. “Imran Niazi [PM] and his cabinet, trampled upon all parliamentary rules, conventions and traditions and did not allow representatives of the people to discuss State Bank autonomy bill in the House,” he added.

Ex-PM believes bill against economic sovereignty will be reversed

“It was an unprecedented act in the history of the country since 1973 that Rs700 billion taxes were imposed on the people other than the budget [through another controversial bill —Supplementary Finance Bill, commonly called mini-budget], while the parliament was not even allowed to say a word about it. The controversial bills were passed in a hurry at midnight and the government couldn’t explain why it was in haste,” he said. Mr Abbasi said he met many members of the government’s allied parties who apprised him that they had received telephone calls that they had to attend the NA session and vote for the government bills. However, he did not elaborate about the callers.

“The numbers in the house were engineered through phone calls to support the bill,” he remarked.

While terming the passage of SBP bill more dangerous than the mini-budget, the ex-premier said the government had handed over the keys of Pakistan’s entire economy to a foreign entity.

“The bill was also passed at 11pm, without any debate or vote even though the opposition had asked the Speaker a number of times to allow discussion over the bill before its passage,” he added. He said even some ministers, in their private meetings, had expressed helplessness at the hands of the IMF but then voted in favour of the bills.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan had claimed to bring $200 billion, out of which $100 billion were to be thrown in the face of the IMF, but the IMF smacked $6 billion across PTI’s face at the cost of country’s sovereignty,” he added.

The PML-N leader feared a “tsunami” of inflation due to additional Rs700bn new taxes app­ro­v­ed by the NA and said it would crush the inflation-hit nation. “The government has no concern and understanding about the impact of the mini-budget on the people. Pakis­tan is right now the fourth most expensive country in the world and the bill will place it on top slot,” he added.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2022



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