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Govt, former PML-N leaders engage in rare verbal brawl over tax-heavy budget

(From left to right) Information Minister Attaullah Tarar, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Miftah Ismail. — APP/File

In a rare public spat, Information Minister Attaullah Tarar and ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) former leaders —Miftah Ismail and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi — on Monday engaged in a verbal brawl over tax-heavy Budget 2024-25.

Addressing a joint press conference, the duo fired a salvo at the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif-led government, saying that “such a budget is not going to do any good”.

Former prime minister Abbasi, who had resigned as the PML-N’s senior vice president last year, lashed out at the government and said the country would not move forward without collecting taxes from the powerful segments.

“No reform agenda is included in the (recent) budget.” He called for an end to misappropriation of funds. The former premier said all the ruling coalition parties were responsible for presenting the tax-laden budget.

It is pertinent to mention here that Miftah, last month, unveiled the launching date of Abbasi-led new party — Awaam Pakistan.

The ex-finance minister, speaking to Geo News via phone, had announced that their political party would be launched on July 6 and Abbasi would be its first convener. The launching ceremony of AP will be held in Islamabad, he had said.

Referring to the “highest” electricity and gas tariffs in Pakistan compared to the other countries in the region, Abbasi asked, “Which foreign investment will come here?”

“Will taxation increase exports?” he asked Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb.

The former premier asked what the government would do in the next budget. “Will it slap 60% on the salaried persons?” He urged the government to privatise power distribution companies and cut their expenses to steer the country out of the ongoing economic crisis.

He also stressed the need to tax the lawmakers too.

For his part, Miftah Ismail, who stepped down from all PML-N positions last year, said the IMF did not ask the government to exploit the middle class.

Firing a fresh salvo at the government, the ex-finance minister asked if the IMF directed to provide Rs600 billion to MNAs.

“Did IMF ask you to spend 24% [of the GDP] on fake expenditure?”

He further asked if the IMF directed to impose a 10% surcharge on the income tax of high-earning individuals. In the fresh budget, the government proposed a 10% surcharge on the income tax of those individuals (salaried and non-salaried) who are earning over Rs10 million per year.

He also criticised the government over the exemption to industries in merged areas of erstwhile Fata.

Reacting to their presser, the information minister replied to them in the same coin and held the former finance minister responsible for the “high inflation” during his previous stint as finance czar.

Replying to their allegations and criticism, the federal minister said that the government reduced its expenses as much as it could.

“Two of our former colleagues presented false statistics,” he said adding that Rs500 billion were not given to MNAs for development.   

The minister revealed that PM Shehbaz and his cabinet members neither draw salaries nor enjoy privileges.

Highlighting the government’s economic measures, he said inflation reduced to 11% from 38% in one year.

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