Opposition rejected economic growth in budget

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ISLAMABAD: Leaders of the opposition came together on Friday to reject the government's stance of economic growth and development in today's budget session, saying they would join hands to give it a "tough time" over the federal budget for fiscal year 2021-22.

Speaking to the media in Islamabad alongside PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari after the National Assembly budget session, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif said: "All opposition parties in parliament have decided we will give a tough time to the government and expose it, the false figures they've shown and the distortion [in numbers] they've done."

He blasted the government's narrative on the state of the economy, questioning how could the economy improve when "the poor [man] is dying, he can't get bread for a one-time meal, there is a wave of poverty and unemployment in the country."

Shehbaz said these issues would be jointly addressed in parliament and "we will give a tough time to the government in passing the budget."

Bilawal similarly lashed out at today's budget presentation and said it did not align with reality, claiming that even people listening to the speech would've thought it was the budget of another country.

He said the prime minister and finance minister's stance, of economic development while the country was facing "historic poverty, unemployment and inflation", held no weight and was akin to "rubbing salt into the wounds of the people of Pakistan who are suffering."

The PPP chairman also expressed his support for a united opposition front to challenge the budget, saying: "We think the differences of the opposition and other political parties have their own place [but] we have to challenge this budget and unqualified, unfit and selected government together.

"As I promised in front of you, we are unconditionally giving all the votes of the PPP MNAs against this budget to Leader of the Opposition (in the National Assembly) Shehbaz Sharif to use against this government."

Last week, Bilawal had said the PPP would support Shehbaz on the budget despite the inappropriate behaviour of some PML-N members. Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he had said: "I unconditionally say to Shehbaz Sharif in front of the media that all PPP members will be in your support with regards to the parliament and this [upcoming] budget despite the tantrums [of some PML-N members]."

Prior to the budget session today, Bilawal chaired a meeting of the PPP parliamentary committee to decide the party's strategy for the session. He had directed PPP MNAs to give a "tough time" to the government, saying the PTI had devised an "anti-poor", "political" and "selected" budget.

Bilawal also joined in a protest of government employees outside Parliament House today and questioned why the protesters were not being paid their salaries or given an increase despite the claims of economic development by the government.

Lamenting the government's proposed 10 per cent salary increase in the budget, he said "at least an increase of 30pc [in salaries] should've been done [...] and the minimum wage should've at least been increased to Rs25,000."

He said it was the entire opposition's demand that injustice with government employees and white-collar workers would not be tolerated, adding that "we will raise your demands on the floor of the house and will do whatever is possible of us to stop this budget."

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