ISLAMABAD - The government on Thursday informed the Senate that the gross public debt of the country would touch Rs19.68 trillion by the end of fiscal year 2016-17 from Rs14.3 trillion in 2013.

The statistics shared by the Law Minister Zahid Hamid on behalf of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar show that the gross public debt has gone up to 66.5 percent of the GDP as compared to 64 percent of the GDP in 2013.

The statistics show the net domestic debt of the country increased from Rs9.49 trillion in 2013 to Rs13.17 trillion at the end of fiscal year of June 2016. While external debt increased from $48.1 billion (Rs4.8 trillion) to $57.7 billion (Rs6.05 trillion).

Responding a call attention notice, the law minister said Pakistan’s net public debt to GDP ratio increased marginally by 1.1 percent during the last three years as compared to the 6.7 percent increase witnessed during the tenure of the previous regime.

The minister informed the house that the incumbent government paid around $12 billion of external debt till the end of June 2016, which was mainly related to borrowings of the previous government. The Forex reserves of the country stood at $24 billion, despite this heavy payment, as compared to $11 billion at the end of June 2013, he said.

Earlier, the government came under criticism in the house for piling up of external and domestic loans to an alarming extent. An opposition lawmaker issued a warning and said that if this practice continued, it could lead to a situation where servicing of loans would become impossible.

PTI Senator Syed Shibli Faraz, the mover of the call attention notice, came down hard on the government and said that the ruling PML-N was continuously violating the fiscal responsibility and debt limitation law.

“According to some reports, the government plans to borrow Rs1.6 trillion in the current quarter and if this borrowing practice continues, we will not be able to service the loans,” he said. “The government has failed to levy direct taxes and no foreign direct investment was coming to the country,” he lamented.

Separately, the law minister informed the house that no final decision has yet been made on launching an amnesty scheme for those having offshore wealth to bring it back to Pakistan. The minister opposed an adjournment motion on the issue moved by MQM Senator Atiq Ahmad Sheikh and said some trade bodies had asked for this scheme and the government had assured them that it would be considered.

However, the chair held the motion as admissible and fixed it for two hours discussion on Tuesday despite government’s opposition. Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani remarked that the finance minister had already given a statement that the government was mulling over a proposal to launch the amnesty scheme.

Separately, The Senate chairman took notice of the abduction of the fifth rights activist and directed the interior minister to brief the house today (Friday). His directives came in the wake of some media reports that the fifth human rights activist, Samar Abbas, went missing in Islamabad— an incident that is a series of abductions of rights activists from Lahore and Islamabad in a short span of one week or so.

The chair also sought a report on the previous abductions from Lahore and Islamabad. “If media reports about the fifth one abduction are correct, this is a very dangerous trend of abductions within a span of 12 days,” Rabbani said. He said that as Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in its earlier statement before the house had said that that was not a state’s policy, then it will be a matter of more concern if some groups were abducting the rights activists.