Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information and Broadcasting, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, on Sunday cautioned against forming presumptions regarding the upcoming budget, which she described as “people-friendly”.
“This is the government’s first properly planned budget. [It was drafted] after having engaged the economic and financial team and keeping in view and focusing on the people’s needs,” Awan said at a press conference in Islamabad.
“PM Imran Khan analysed, assessed the budget 12 times, evaluated it and kept as his foremost priority the downtrodden, the vulnerable segments of society which has remained neglected, the deserving, the non-affording class, the poor people on which the burden of the budget is always placed.
“The number one priority was to have a sustainable economy to be retained with a consistent, untiring effort,” she explained, adding that the salient features of the budget shall be unveiled when the Economic Survey Report shall be officially made public.
SAPM Awan said that the budget will represent Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s long-term road map and way forward, address the objectives for the next five years, and reflect the PTI manifesto.
“Owing to economic challenges, by presenting an austerity budget our aim is to cut back on unnecessary expenditure in all government institutions, ministries and divisions,” she explained.
“The trend was first set by the Pakistan Army. They froze their annual [budgetary] increase. They decided that the officers placed on high ranks will not avail increased perks, privileges and salaries and that the budgetary benefits will be transferred to their lower ranking officers of up to Grade 16.
“Our ignorant opposition is raising a hue and cry that we may have risked the country’s national security with this initiative. In no way is the government of Pakistan and the prime minister oblivious to the nation’s defence requirements…the prime minister as well as the chief of Army staff have decided in consultation with one another that the foregone increase in defence budget shall be spent on the development of the merged tribal areas,” said Awan.
She said that the common man living in the tribal areas, who “stands together with the Army and kisses our flag” will be made a shareholder in all developmental efforts in the region.
SAPM Awan also revealed that the funds that would have been allotted for the enhancement of the defence institutions shall now be spent on the underdeveloped areas of Balochistan so they may have good schools, better healthcare facilities and quality infrastructure.
‘Brother from another mother’
Awan also addressed the matter of the legal notice sent to PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah for allegedly issuing “false, malicious and defamatory statements” against her.
The notice said that Rana Sanaullah, in his media talks, had levelled baseless and fabricated allegations, which hurt the SAPM, besides damaging her reputation. The notice warned Rana Sanaullah to withdraw the allegations, tender an apology and pay damages within a period of 14 days, failing which Dr Awan has the right to start legal proceedings against Rana Sanaullah under the Defamation Act 2002.
“I have a brother, he is from another mother: Rana Sanaullah. It seems he is unaware of the stature and respect accorded to the relation that is a ‘baji’,” said Awan, in reference to Sanaullah’s response to the notice which had been peppered with the use of the term meaning ‘elder sister’.
She said she had no choice but to also include a media organisation as a respondent because “the notice requires that details be provided of what was said and where”.
“We are politicians. We may have differences when it comes to our viewpoints and it is a democratic right we enjoy, but to attack one’s person and when you level such vulgar allegations then to exercise one’s right to seek relief and pursue justice under the law is also everyone’s right which I have [made use of and] shared with you in documented form,” she added.