ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly on Saturday approved 31 demands for grants worth Rs 652 billion relating to the Cabinet Division and the Ministries of Communications and Defence for the next financial year. Eight demands for grants of over Rs 505 billion for the Defence Division were approved while all cut motions (207) presented by the Opposition were rejected. Responding to the criticism by the opposition members of the performance of the Cabinet Division, Minister of State for Economic Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar said the government by and large has tried to limit the expenditures of the Cabinet Division and the increase in its budget is only due to the extra responsibilities that has been entrusted to the Cabinet Division following the devolution of ministries to the provinces under the 18th amendment. The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs also clarified that Pakistan is amongst those developing countries that has cut expenditures of its cabinet members. She said that expenditures in this head have been reduced to 180 million rupees from two 224 million rupees. Regarding the expenditures of the PM Secretariat, Hina Rabbani Khar said that these have been increased by just eight per cent to meet expenses related to the employees. Minister for Communications Arbab Alamgir Khan said the National Highway Authority has undertaken work on eighty-nine road projects which will be completed at a cost of 659 billion rupees. He said special emphasis is being given to the construction of motorways which are serving as a backbone for our economy. He informed the House that the work on M-4 Faisalabad to Multan is underway after land acquisition. Similarly work on M-9 will be started after the availability of funds. He said that under the PSDP, 33 billion rupees have been set aside for the National Highway Authority assuring that Balochistan province will be given its full share in it. The minister said that due to concrete steps, the internal revenues of the National Highway Authority have risen to 14 billion rupees this year as against 7.3 billion rupees three years ago. Minister for Defence Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, while responding to points raised by members during the debate on cut motions, said that protecting the sovereignty of Pakistan is our prime responsibility and in this regard all resources will be applied. Referring to the defence budget, he said it has only been increased by 2.42 per cent and sufficient details have been outlined in the budget. Regarding the reservations expressed by the members over the proposed construction of GHQ in Islamabad, Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar said the government currently does have the funds to implement the project. About the performance of PIA, the defence minister said that efforts are underway to transform the national flag carrier into a profitable organisation. He said that by replacing old aircraft with new ones, we can check the losses of the PIA. Finance Minister Dr Hafeez Shaikh presented the demands of Defence Division in the House while Opposition members Shireen Arshad Khan, Tahria Aurangzaib, Khalida Mansoor, Parveen Masood Bhatti and Ishrat Ashraf submitting cut motions. Opening the debate on cut motions, PML-N leader Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan Abbasi said Pakistan needed a competitive defence system. He said the resolution of issues was a preferable way, he added. He also opposed the construction of the GHQ in the capital city. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said as compared to other sectors, allocation of Rs 500 billion for defence was excessive. He also highlighted the importance of strengthening the Federal Public Service Commission to ensure induction of quality workforce. He however deplored that the allocations for this commission have been reduced by 40 per cent. Ahsan Iqbal said over Rs 1,800 billion spending on defence and debt servicing would not lead the country towards progress and prosperity. He said that the nation was proud of soldiers who were sacrificing their lives in defending the countrys borders. We have to introduce recognised management practices in the Army as well as civilian organisations to ensure transparency and good performance, he said. He suggested that Survey of Pakistan should be brought under either the Agriculture Ministry or the Meteorological Department. He said that $5 billion could be earned if GHQ land in Islamabad was auctioned. Qudsia Arshad said the Armed Forces were the only institution that could ensure the countrys security. She said that budget for the Army should be increased instead of cutting it down. Ishrat Ashraf and Raja Asad also highlighted the importance of proper utilisation of defence allocations for the betterment of the country. Zahid Hamid demanded constituting an independent commission to probe the Abbottabad incident and urged the government to implement the resolution of the joint sitting of the Parliament of May 13. Earlier, Hina said some members of the National Assembly had questioned the large size of the cabinet during the budget debate, which was wrong. She clarified that presently there were only 29 federal ministers, nine ministers of state, four advisers and three special assistants to the prime minister. Shireen Arshad demanded formation of a commission to probe Nawab Akbar Bugtis death besides taking measures to control smuggling through the Afghan Transit Trade. Anusha Rehman said that it is not known whether NAB is working under the Cabinet Division or under the Ministry of Law and Justice. Meanwhile responding to the suggestions of MNAs on the construction of parliamentary lodges during cut motions, Deputy Speaker National Assembly Faisal Karim Kundi suggested constituting a committee to follow the demand of providing offices to the parliamentarians. The committee, comprising both opposition and government members, could be formed to meet the prime minister to get allotted land for constructing offices for the parliamentarians, Kundi said.