ISLAMABAD - The federal government in Tuesday’s National Assembly session announced that it will form a parliamentary committee to devise a strategy in consultation with opposition about the matter of giving citizenship to refugees and illegal immigrants.

The house, on its private members day of 15th National Assembly, witnessed heated discussion over the future status of refugees living in the country. The government side agreed to hold ‘meaningful’ debate in the house before the formation of the parliamentary committee on the matter of refugees.

“Government will welcome discussion on this issue in the house, but I hope meaningful debate would be conducted for the better solution,” said Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari, responding to a concern raised by the opposition over the issue of Biharis and Afghan refugees.

The opposition parties’ members, in a call-attention notice, blamed prime minister for taking U-turn over the status of refugees and illegal immigrants. The minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had not taken any U-turn on this matter but the previous governments had taken many U-turns in their agreements on refugees status.

She assured the house that the future status of Afghan refugees and immigrants would be devised in consultation with opposition parties. “Our approach is purely in national interests,” said Mazari, mentioning that all the matters including legal, political and humanitarian obligation would be considered in the proposed committee to finalise the status of refugees.

“The previous governments had not collected the data of refugees living in Pakistan but we (incumbent government) have started the process of data collection of refugees and immigrants,” she claimed. PPP-P’s Nafeesa Shah said that the premier had taken u-turn on his statement about the status of Biharis and Afghan refugees. BNP (Mengal) chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal said that there was a need to form national policy. “A committee should be formed to resolve the issue,” said Mengal.

DEBATE ON BUDGET

Later, the house continued debate on supplementary budget presented by PTI-led government.

PPP-P’s Naveed Qamar, taking part in mini-budget debate, pointed out the absence of finance minister Asad Umar in the house during the budget debate. “Finance minister had assured to give reply after the speech of opposition party member but today he is not in the house,” said Qamar.

He was supported by PML-N’s lawmaker Ayaz Sadiq on the issue of absence of concerned ministries secretaries in the house. The former speaker also asked the newly-elected member to learn the ‘rules and procedures’ before commenting in the house.

Qamar, in his speech, said that there were no practical measures in the mini-budget. “I am not seeing any roadmap and proper direction in this budget. Only cosmetic measures were being taken in this regard,” he said and criticised the price hike of natural gas and power.

PPP-P’s senior member said that there were no concrete measures for the tax defaulters. “Dams cannot be built through donations,” he said, criticising the government for not putting value to the idea of opposition for ‘charter of economy’.

Responding to concerns raised by opposition member, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhary said that the previous government had not taken any proper measures for the betterment of the country.

“Experienced governments did not take any measure for the country as because of them the situation of the economy is not better,” he said, adding that the previous government had not worked for economy crisis in the country. “This government has asked for donation to build dams because of flawed policies of previous government,” he said.

About the auction of vehicles, the minister said that 33 vehicles worth Rs980 million were purchased by the previous government. “These vehicles were not used and even Rs330million were spent on maintenance on these vehicles,” he said.

Minister of State for Finance and Revenue Hammad Azhar said there was difference of opinion in the speeches of opposition parties. “Incumbent government wants to rescue the economy from the current crisis,” he said.

He said the budgetary proposals envisage steps to help generating over 50 percent of revenue from enforcement measures. “Previous governments had pushed the country into debt trap,” he said.

Azhar said that the previous government had also taken benefit from low prices of oil in the international market. He said that regulatory duty had been imposed on the import of unnecessary items to benefit the country’s economy.

Ayesha Ghous from opposition, on her turn, said that there was no clarity in the budgetary measures.

PPP’s Nafeesa Shah challenged the government for building dam with donation money. “It might take 100 years to build dam with donation money, she said and asked about the status of public sector entities (PSEs) including PIA and Steel Mills.

She also criticised the government for allowing a journalist to taking pictures of Prime Minister’s House. “I want to move privilege motion on it,” she said.

Earlier, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan, responding to a call-attention notice, said task force headed by KP governor was working to accelerate the process of merger of former FATA with KP.