ISLAMABAD - Main opposition parties on Friday blasted the government for presenting an ‘illegal’ budget to allegedly influence the upcoming general election.

Reacting to the budget, Pakistan People’s Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari said: “It is pointless to comment on the budget, an exercise that has no legal, moral and political basis but seems driven solely by greed and political ambition.”

He said the government had presented the budget despite the opposition of three federating units.

He said that keeping in view the correct moral and legal position, the PPP had decided to present Sindh budget only for three months and asked why the federal government insisted on presenting the budget for the entire year when it will no longer be in power after a month or so.

“Is it the temptation of PSDP (Public Sector Development Program) projects worth hundreds of billions and the huge commission involved,” he said.

Zardari warned that ignoring the provinces in the PSDP formulation will only alienate the provinces and undermine the federation. “Seldom before a government in Islamabad has been so insensitive to the concerns of the federating units,” he said.

Earlier, the PPP in a statement rejected the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government’s claims on the economy in the economic survey report saying the macroeconomic fundamentals were fast derailing due to ‘shortsighted’ policies of the government.

“It has also repeatedly alerted the government against presenting the 6th budget although the government has a term of 5 years. This is legally improper and in the election year is tantamount to pre-poll rigging,” said a party spokesperson.

The PPP, it said, deems it unfortunate that the government has come up with cherry-picked information to paint a favorauble picture of the economy in the economic survey 2017-18 which makes “a mockery of the ground realities and the economic challenges the country is facing today”.

The economic survey, the party said, begins with a misleading phrase “Pakistan has made great strides in improving its economic outcomes and reducing its macroeconomic vulnerability in the recent years”. 

In reality, the government has only given increased income inequality, a deepening debt trap, a gaping current account deficit, fast drying forex reserves making the projected growth unsustainable, the spokesperson said.

“The state of the economy can be gauged by the fact that the rupee lost more than 10 percent of its value in a free fall in 3 months, and even now unstable hitting 118 rupees to a dollar. It is clear that there was insider knowledge of the fall of the rupee and many must have made a quick buck out of this move. For more than 3 years, for political gains, the exchange rate was artificially being maintained by Ishaq Dar which even the current finance minister admits to,” the PPP spokesperson said.

“Petrol prices have been raised three times in three months. In fact, the macroeconomic vulnerability has only increased and it is feared that the present government’s burdens will be inherited by the next government which may have to go to international agencies for assistance, added the statement.

The current account deficit is high and exports have fallen. It is estimated the overall deficit could be around $15 billion by the end of 2017-18 if the current trend persists. PPP government had brought current account deficit down from $ 13.87 billion to $ 4.658 billion during its tenure,” the spokesperson said.

Prior to Ismail’s speech, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Khurshid Shah said the government should have presented the budget for three or four months.

He said that ethically the government had no right to present the annual budget and the government was depriving the next government of its right.

The PPP leader said that it was painful that Miftah Ismail was made finance minister hours before the assembly’s budget session.

Shah said that Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi could have presented the budget or asked State Minister for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal to table the fiscal plan.

Opposition Leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said that the government was ending its term leaving the nation under a massive debt.

She said that the government was surprisingly appointing new ministers as the five-year term was ending within weeks. “All the opposition parties in the Senate reject the budget. The government is usurping the people’s rights. They have some days to go and they are presenting a full year’s budget,” she said.

PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the budget was illegal as three provinces were opposed to it.  He said that Rana Afzal should have presented the budget.

“Three chief ministers (Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan) walked out of the National Economic Council meeting but the government was unmoved,” he said.

PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said that the PML-N wanted to influence the upcoming general election through the budget. He said that the budget presented by the government was illegal.

Chaudhry said that as per Article 86 of the Constitution, the government should have presented a budget for four months until a new government is voted to power.

Smaller opposition parties including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the Awami National Party, the Jammat-e-Islami and others also criticised the budget terming it ‘unethical’.