ISLAMABAD - The government came under fire in the Senate on Wednesday for its decision to approach the International Monetary Fund for a bailout package as the opposition said that the step was contrary to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s earlier claims of ‘preferring suicide’ over going to the multilateral donor.

The opposition senators severely criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan and his economic team, especially Finance Minister Asad Umar over the decision and said that the step was tantamount to breaching privilege of the Parliament.

Speaking on a point of public importance, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani raised the issue and reminded that the prime minister had been saying that he would commit suicide instead of going to the IMF. He said that Finance Minister Asad Umar had stated on the floor of the House that the Parliament would be taken into confidence before taking decision of going to the IMF. He said that it was breach of the privilege of the Parliament as the decision had been taken without informing the Parliament.

Rabbani claimed that the government had increased prices of gas and electricity besides agreeing to privatise state entities in order to please ‘western imperialist powers’ which, he said, are bent upon imposing their philosophy to politically destabilise the country. He said that the PPP and other opposition parties would not allow the government to sell state entities at through away prices. He stressed chairman Senate to convene session of the Upper House to discuss how the government approached the IMF while ignoring the Parliament or opposition would be left with no option but to requisition the session.

ANP Senator Sitara Ayaz also criticised the government for approaching the IMF. PPP Senator Sikandar Mandhro also called it a breach of the Parliament for going to Fund without taking the House into confidence.

Responding to Rabbani’s reservations, State Minister for Finance Hammad Azhar said that it was mainly due to flawed economic policies of the past two governments of the PPP and PML-N that forced the government to approach the IMF. He said that the previous government went to the IMF for a number of times.

He also criticised Rabbani for saying that the combined opposition would not allow government to privatise state institutions, saying it could be the view of PPP only because PML-N had been supporting privatisation in the past. He said that PTI would not sell the state entities at through away prices like it was done in the past.

PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan on a point of order condemned the arrest of Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif by the National Accountability Bureau and said that his party would continue the protest till Sharif’s release as, he said, he was innocent. “Why Shehbaz Sharif was arrested; is he a terrorist,” he questioned and demanded his immediate release.

Another PML-N Senator Asif Kirmani criticised the economic policies of the government and said that these were increasing burden on poor and middle class people. He said that NAB and PTI were hand in gloves to take action against the PNL-N. He questioned as to why NAB was not taking action on pending inquiries against the prime minister and other of his close aides.

Kirmani questioned contribution of people like Aneel Musarrat and Zulfi Bukhari, saying that both were UK citizens of Pakistani origin, but had been entrusted with huge responsibilities. He said that this was an example of nepotism.

Responding to the opposition lawmakers, Leader of the House Senator Shibli Faraz accused the previous governments of PPP and PML-N for their policies that forced the government to go to the IMF. He said that the past governments of PPP and PML-N did not invest the loan money for welfare of people and instead misused the same for building empires for themselves. He said that NAB’s actions had nothing to do with the government. He also said that PTI was being wrongly accused of coming into power with the support of someone else as it was the result of the party’s 22 years long struggle, he claimed.

He said that the government was getting loans to bring the country out of economic quagmire, and with completion of its 5 years terms, the country would be self-sufficient and would break the begging bowl once for all, he assured.