ISLAMABAD - The opposition members yesterday severely criticised the government in the National Assembly for ‘inefficiency’ of the Foreign Office in handling important matters of the country.

The opposition also came down hard upon the government during budgetary debate for not appointing minister for foreign affairs, keeping mum over NFC award and not holding national census in the country.

The house in five-hour proceedings witnessed thin presence from both sides of the aisle, but lack of quorum was not pointed out by any opposition member.

Taking part in the debate, PTI’s Dr Shireen Mazari came down hard on the government for not appointing minister for foreign affairs. “Pakistan has not given even a single statement over unprovoked firing by the Afghan forces on Torkham border, which should have been done immediately,” he said, adding the government was committing negligence by not appointing a minister for foreign affairs. “Have you not any competent person in the PML-N?” she said, proposing the names of some government members like Awais Leghari, Daniyal Aziz and Khusro Bukhtiyar for this post.

She said this government has no foreign policy. “What is your policy for Kashmir? How much government has spent on Kashmir Affairs Committee and what is its progress?” Mazari posed volley of questions in her speech. She further asked who would give briefing on Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline.

She further proposed closure of the Foreign Office due to its continuous inefficiency to deal with important matters. About China, she said Pakistan should not bother China in each and every matter. “Pakistan should use further diplomatic channels as well,” she added. She criticised the government for submitting application to join the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) very late.

She was of the view that many incidents against women happened during the era of this government. “Is it an anti-women government?” she asked. The PTI leader also criticised the government on the National Action Plan, Nacta and unscheduled loadshedding even during Sehar and Iftar.

Justice (r) Iftikhar Ahmad Cheema from the treasury benches congratulated the government for presenting a balanced budget. “This is not merely a jugglery of words,” he said, adding the government had initiated a number of projects to get rid of power outages in the country.

Another PTI lawmaker, Dr Arif Alvi, said the govt had taken no concrete measures in the matter of the Panama leaks. “During this tenure of PML-N, foreign loans have increased,” he said, adding the tax rate had increased, but no steps taken to include new persons in the tax net. He strongly opposed indirect taxes on the masses.

Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao from QWP proposed merger of Fata with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to bring improvement in both the areas. Taking part in the debate, MQM’s Sheikh Salahuddin termed the federal budget 2016-17 anti-poor. “This is very strange as prices of commodities have been increased in the month of holy Ramazan,” he, said adding there was a need to hold national census in the country as government has formed budget without having idea of population.

Imran Zafar Leghari from PPP criticised the government for not increasing salaries of government servants as per their expectations and ratio of price hike. “It was PPP which increased the salaries of government servants in each year from 20 to 50 percent. “For the sake of friendship with Indian PM Modi, this government has made many foes,” he added.

Another lawmaker from the government side, Farhana Qamar, lauded the finance minister for presenting a pro-people budget. She was of the view that 21 percent increase in the Public Sector Development Programme was a good step. She also appreciated the government’s measures for enhancing revenue collection and step for agriculture.

Another lawmaker, Mahreen Razzaq Bhutto, said ‘Kissan Package’ announced in the next year’s budget should be implemented properly. She also lauded the continuation the BISP in the next budget.

Sahibzada Faiz-ul-Hassan termed the budget 2016-17 pro-poor. Other lawmakers from the opposition also criticised the government for not appointing minister for foreign affairs and not announcing NFC award.