Apart from everything else was the federal budget. Dr Hafeez Sheikh saw the revival of an old parliamentary tradition, the attempt to howl down the Finance Minister by the Opposition. Presumably there will be a mirror-image performance in the Punjab Assembly, where it will be a PML(N) nominee to present the Budget, something which was done for the last couple of years by a member of the PPP. And why does instinct tell me that Raja Riaz is instinctively more inclined to howling than what he had to do in recent years, which was listen in studied, even weighty, silence, as if he understood every word of what was being said. And not just him, but he had to give the impression that not only he, but the man reading the speech, understood every word. Anyhow, the Federal Finance Minister understood every word he was reading, and if he didnt, then his expensive education and his expertise in economics went waste, as did the only reason to make him Finance Minister. However, he seemed to have his head screwed on in the right place, and not only made sure that jialas would stay on the gravy train of the Benazir Income Support Programme, but that Pakistan would keep on paying for the War on Terror. That, more than anything, should ensure that the IMF will come through with the funds it had declined to give, and has been declining for the last year. Having an economist for a finance minister would only work if the Prime Minister (and in this case the President) also understands something of economics, and the role the governments annual budget plays in the national economy. Otherwise, if they dont, and thus ensure the presentation of a traditional budget, like the present one, then theres no fun in having a trained economist for a Finance Minister. Its interesting, but at the moment, not only do we have a Finance Minister with a doctorate in economics, but also a Finance Secretary. If these two experts couldnt make Asif Zardari, whose lack of a graduation degree meant that he couldnt enter the National Assembly, control the expenses of the Gilani Cabinet, and makes it doubtful that we could have a worse budget if Zardari himself was Finance Minister. And it seems that he could, for now there is no graduation condition for members of assemblies, who can be as uneducated as their constituents will allow. Dr Sheikhs declaration of an increase in the number of taxpayers by the millions, complete with the issuing of tax notices to them, is heartening, only it makes me wonder whether we are seeing the 21st century version of cattle theft. President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani would probably be quite satisfied with cattle theft, but Dr Sheikh had got to put his academic training to some use, so why not something that would prove useful. Mind you, the point of cattle theft was that the charge was patently false, and proved the power of the state which laid the charge. Recently, in Europe and the USA, the charge has been sexual assault or attempted rape. But we will have non-payment of income tax. And the charge might well be true, so the power of the state to lay a totally unfounded and baseless charge will not have been established. Speaking of baseless and unfounded charges, has anyone noticed how the Navy attempted to sail through the PNS Mehran storm by blaming the Air Force? I dont know for sure if theres a connection, but its after that that there were rumours of Army people being involved in the attack, as if the PAF was trying to shift the blame away. The only response the PAF has left is that civilians are to blame. Instead we had a former naval commando being picked up in Lahore, and because of the mysterious manner of the pick-up, we dont know if any PAF police or intelligence personnel were in the arresting team. But its worrying for us civilians to have the armed forces blaming each other over an incident of that sort. Especially when Osama bin Ladens killing showed us all that Indian allies can bring helicopters deep into Pakistani airspace, kill somebody, and then move out. And then get their crashed helicopter back. In the mean time, I see, Atiqua Odho has had liquor confiscated while she was on a domestic flight. Poor woman probably didnt know liquor was illegal. Well, she was not flying to the UK, or else she would have been accused of taking a gift for her party chief. Shes in some party these days; well, it must be a whale of a party And theyd better win the next election, for they seem to have begun celebrations a little early. Well, the ASF did the confiscation, but released the lady. What to do with the case property? Well, waste not; want not, they say, so the ASF at the Islamabad Airport are a very cheery lot these days And hoping that Ms Odho, or other members of her party, come along soon. We have been struggling with the weather. The rain here last week was almost monsoonal in its intensity, raising fears that the monsoons had started early. Well, the monsoon hasnt started, but when it does, it will bring its own difficulties. Meanwhile, we hope we can get through this heat somehow.