Gas cess to weaken federation: Imran

Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Imran Khan addressing a press conference in Bani Gala. —Online/ S M Sohail

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has criticised the Gas Infrastructure Develop-ment Cess (GIDC) Bill 2014, saying it is an “anti-federation” piece of legislation which will put burden on poor people.

Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, PTI chief Imran Khan said the ruling PML-N was bent upon weakening the federation by imposing the cess. This was by no means justified because it would harm the interests of smaller provinces.

“From the acts of commission and omission, it seems that for the ruling party there exists only one province -- Punjab,” he said, warning that if the trend continued, people of smaller provinces would start abusing the major province over their deprivations, as had happened in East Pakistan.

Take a look: Controversial GIDC move

If the government was hard-pressed to impose the tax, he said, the bill should have been routed through the Council of Common Interests to obtain the consent of all federating units.

Ridiculing what he called an unholy alliance between the PML-N and PPP for the levying of the cess, Mr Khan said: “Again the two parties have joined hands. This is a manifestation of their strategy to support each other in the hour of need.”

After receiving a majority vote from the National Assembly on Tuesday, the bill sailed through the Senate, where two majority parties -- PPP and PML-N -- again voted for it on Wednesday.

“The PPP has sold out rights of Sindh on its gas resources, the PTI chief said. “Whenever a situation arises in which the interests of the corrupt elite need to be defended, the PPP and the PML-N come together, exposing the “Mukmuka” that exists between the two parties which are two sides of the same coin.”

He also criticised the PPP for its lack of interest in the proceedings of the judicial commission’s inquiry into alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections. Despite being the first party to have termed the polls “returning officers’ election”, the PPP was staying away from the commission’s hearings because its leader Asif Zardari did not want to annoy Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, he said.

It was expected because the National Accountability Bureau chairman, who had been appointed with the mutual consent of the PML-N and the PPP, had cleared Mr Zardari in many cases, Imran Khan said.

“What about the PML-N claims that after coming to power, it will bring back money from Swiss banks, where Mr Zardari has stashed $60 million,” he wondered.

Instead of recovering the stolen money and improving tax system, he said, the government, in collusion with the PPP, had planned to meet its budgetary deficit through the imposition of the cess.

In the same breath, Mr Khan accused the government of creating an unnecessary controversy over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. “The government signed a memorandum of understanding with China on the project in July 2013, but until now nobody knows the exact route of the corridor. “This is creating misgivings among Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and will eventually cast an adverse impact on the project.”

In reply to a question, the PTI chief said that the recent announcement of Rs46 billion development package for Gilgit- Baltistan by the prime minister and the Benazir Income Support Programme’s special focus on the region were aimed at influencing coming general elections in the GB.

“I do not hold any public office and have the right to canvass for elections as the head of a political party,” he said.

Separately in a press statement, the PTI referred to different constitutional clauses which, according to it, said the cess violated constitutional provisions. Since gas was part of the federal concurrent list, it said, any decision on it required prior consultation under Article 154 of the constitution. But it had not been done.

It said the infrastructure promised in the GIDC Bill would cater for the needs of areas facing gas shortage whereas Sindh, Balochistan and KP were exporters of gas. “So imposing GIDC for the benefit of one province, Punjab, is nothing but extortion.”

The PTI argued that an increase in gas tariff would seriously hurt the already struggling industrial sector, particularly the export sector, which was under severe pressure because of global competition and poor policies of the government.

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