‘Don’t take us for granted’ : PPP warns PML-N amid budget dispute

The alliance between the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarian (PPPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) faced significant strain as PPPP’s involvement in the National Assembly’s budget session was minimal. This followed PML-N’s failure to address PPPP’s concerns regarding the budget.

Disgruntled PPPP lawmakers made a brief appearance at the session, a gesture prompted by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar’s urgent visit to PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. Despite Dar’s plea for full participation, only three PPP MNAs — Naveed Qamar, Khursheed Shah, and Ijaz Jakhrani — attended the session. The rest of the PPP lawmakers, including Bhutto-Zardari, were notably absent, signaling discontent with PML-N’s handling of their post-election agreement.

“The PML-N has violated the agreement made with PPPP prior to forming the government,” stated PPPP Secretary Information Shazia Marri. She highlighted the lack of consultation on the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), emphasizing that the government’s briefing to a few lawmakers was insufficient.

Marri indicated that without Dar’s assurances, PPPP would have boycotted the session entirely. She stressed that the future course of action depends on the government’s response to their concerns, urging the ruling party not to take PPPP’s support for granted. Marri underscored PPPP’s goals to subsidize farmers and avoid regressive taxation.

The disagreement over a proposed 18% standard sales tax on agriculture inputs and machinery, mandated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has been a major contention point. Additionally, PPPP criticized the government for issues such as load-shedding, mistimed wheat imports, and lack of agricultural sector relief.

Senator Sherry Rehman reiterated PPPP’s dissatisfaction, noting that their support for government formation was based on national interest and a detailed agreement. She emphasized the need for the government to engage PPPP in budget discussions to foster positive contributions.

PPPP’s token presence at the budget session was a clear protest, and both parties are scheduled for further meetings to resolve these issues. The coalition’s future hinges on the government’s willingness to address PPPP’s reservations, ensuring their continued support.

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