- An incompetent government and a rootless opposition
When it presented the last budget in 2019, the PTI was fully confident about the support of all its legislators. This time the situation had changed. BNP-M with four NA members had left the coalition while discontent was prevailing amongst its allies as well as several PTI legislators. This led the PM to invite all legislators on treasury benches to dinner to talk to the malcontents personally in order to ensure the passage of the budget without hassle on Monday. The NA Speaker was tasked to ensure the presence of the PTI dissidents as well as its PML-Q allies at the event. Speaker Asad Qaiser managed to deliver party malcontents but failed to convince the Chaudhries to attend the function or at least send a representative to maintain a perception of unity. The Chaudhries who were hosting a dinner party for like-minded legislators the same evening declined to oblige. The snub was however followed by a message that they would vote for the government’s budget. Intriguingly some of those attending the PM’s dinner later visited the Chaudhries also to maintain a posture of political ambivalence
Getting the budget passed was a big challenge for the PTI and it took measures to get it through. The opposition on the other hand had little to lose if it was passed. Major opposition leaders like Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Khawaja Asif concentrated more on exposing the PTI’s general performance than on individual provisions in the budget document. They maintained that the Budget had failed to address the major challenges faced by the country including the pandemic, inflation, unemployment, collapsing industry, shrinking agriculture, a deadly locust invasion and ongoing global economic shocks.
The maximum the opposition promises is a multiparty conference in days to come to maintain pressure on the government. At a time when the pandemic continues to infect thousands every day while millions are being pushed down the poverty line and restrictions on the right of expression are throttling the media, an opposition having little grass root support can do little else than wait for more blunders by the government and greater realization among those who matter of the ineptness of the ruling coalition followed by some miracle.