Oppn walks out as defence budget approved
The opposition parties walked out of the National Assembly as a Rs 2,150 billion defence budget for 2006-07 was approved.india Updated: Jun 17, 2006 15:22 IST
Demanding that the army return to the barracks, Pakistani opposition parties walked out of the National Assembly as a Rs 2,150 billion ($35.9 billion) defence budget for 2006-07 was approved.
The defence budget on Friday was for the first time allowed parliamentary scrutiny in that the Senate's Committee on Defence was briefed by the defence secretary and other senior civilian officials connected with budget making.
Details of expenditure incurred on the security of President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz were sought by the members who protested the preponderance of army personnel, serving and retired, in key positions in the government.
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal's (MMA) Hafiz Hussain Ahmed said: "We have reports that Rs 90 million was spent on the president's one day security when he came to Karachi and Rs 60 million when he visited Quetta."
MMA members Maulana Sherani and Liaqat Baloch demanded that the defence budget be frozen until the restoration of rule by political parties.
They, however, said they had no objection to the defence budget allocation "because the country is surrounded by dangers from all sides".
While the demand of the Opposition for a defence budget freeze was for political reasons, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been strongly recommending that from time to time.
Minister of State for Finance Omar Ayub Khan, who piloted the budget and wound up the debate, alleged that the opposition was "merely befooling the country" by criticising the defence budget.
The News newspaper said Khan "explained when contacted" that the charged expenditures are essential spending for the financial year and under the constitution's Article 82 no cut motion could be brought.
The Opposition could take part in debate and discuss these charged expenditures, which include grants and appropriations, but could not move for changing these figures under the constitution, he said.
The MMA and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz also staged a walkout to protest against the continuation of the "interest based economy".
The opposition, backed by some treasury members, noted the missing details of expenditures for autonomous bodies and corporations under the defence ministry.
National Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain has reserved his ruling on this after hearing legal and constitutional arguments of members from both sides.