ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Senator Azam Khan Swati Tuesday informed the Senate that national programme on polio eradication was not falling apart despite serious security threats.

Winding up the call attention notice moved by PML-N Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, he said that Polio Eradication Programme was in safe hands and they had national and international commitments to carry it forward successfully. “No negligence will be committed in this regard.” Last week, the federal government had suspended its anti-polio vaccination campaign throughout the country after separate deadly attacks on polio workers and a fake social media health campaign that vaccine was harmful for the children.

Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq who remained then Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication during 2013-18 cast doubts over the way ruling PTI was undertaking the programme and said that there was rise in the number of polio during its first nine months in government. So far 17 cases had been reported during the period, she said.

Ms Farooq further said the number was brought down from 306 in 2014 to only eight in 2018 when she left the programme. She added that the government lacked ability in running a well-coordinated campaign while using the successful communication strategy. She also said that refusal rates was sky rocketing and misconceptions about the programme were again rearing their head. She feared that Pakistan could face permanent travelling restrictions for its weak polio eradication programme. She also cast doubts over the ability of PM Focal Person on Polio Eradication Babar Atta to successfully run the programme.

Pakistan People’s Party Senator Sherry Rehman speaking on her adjournment motion in the house criticised the government for its “bad” economic policies. She said that they were “waiting for some miracle so that they could see face of new Pakistan but to no avail.” She went on to say that neither the government could improve tax collection nor bring reforms in Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) as PTI had been claiming when in opposition.

Senator Rehman argued that PTI had been claiming that it would not approach International Monetary Fund (IMF) but forced to do so. She lamented over rising inflation and petroleum prices. “They still think themselves that they are sitting on the container,” she said giving a reference to the PTI’s protest sit-in. “One would have to work for better policy making,” she said adding that mere claims would not work. So far 0.6 million Pakistanis have been deprived of jobs during the tenure of this government, she said.

Senator Rehman who is also the parliamentary leader of PPP in the house said that the government was taking excessive foreign debts as country’s14 per cent debts increased during last eight months. She demanded the government to take the parliament into confidence as to what fiscal agreements they were going to sign.

State Minister for Revenue Hammad Azhar winding up the adjournment motion criticised the opposition lawmakers for quoting ‘wrong figures’ of economy while taking part in the debate.

Referring to Sherry Rehman, he said that her remarks were “wrong that the current account deficit at present decreased because the PTI government took excessive loans. “What is the relationship of debts with current account deficit,” he said and answered in the same breath that there was no relation between both. He alleged that the opposition was only bent on wasting time of the house.

Azhar said that present government’s internal borrowing was less than the corresponding year and its external borrowing was half as compared to the last year. Quoting remarks of PML-N Senator Javed Abbasi that they knew well that the government would avail bailout package of IMF, he said, “They knew because the last PML-N government left the country‘s economy in crisis.”

The state minister said that circular debt, current account deficit and the losses of public sector enterprises considerably increased during the PML-N government. “The country’s loans increased from Rs6000 billion to 28000 billion rupees during the last 10 years of PPP and PML-N respectively,” he said. He took a jibe at PPP for changing four finance ministers during its last tenure and said, “Now they are taunting us for changing the finance minister.” He reminded that previous PPP and PML-N governments took IMF packages for a number of times during their previous tenures.

Azhar said that the PTI government had taken a number of steps to stabilise the economy as it wanted to bring the economy on right track with “actual figures.” He accused that last PML-N government for allegedly getting involved in figure fudging of economy. He said that all previous governments had been doing devaluation of rupees and it was not only the PTI government which did this. Now current account deficit and trade deficit is decreasing, he said adding that Pakistan’s economy will soon be on the high growth trajectory.

Responding to a separate call attention notice, the state minister denied that State Bank of Pakistan had given any report that there would be a flood of inflation in the country ahead of holy month of Ramazan.

Taking part in the debate on the presentation of report of Functional Committee on Problems of Less Developed Area regarding Chitral and Kalash areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the lawmakers urged that the government should protect “unique culture, traditions, heritage, languages and religion of the area.” Quoting the report, they said that community living there should not be forced to give up their traditions and the government should announce a special package for them.