Asif Ali Zardari
Asif Ali Zardari Image Credit: AP

ISLAMABAD: A day after Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser issued former Pakistan president and Member National Assembly Asif Ali Zardari’s production orders, the National Accountability Bureau, the country’s top anti-graft agency, moved him to Islamabad where he participated in the budget debate.

Asad Qaiser had issued production orders of Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNA Khwaja Saad Rafique after protest by the opposition party members on Wednesday. Zardari was arrested by NAB on June 10 in connection with investigation into money laundering and fake bank accounts.

The government and the opposition could sit together to discuss issues affecting the economy. Let’s give the economic policy ownership, so that it remains forever.

- Asif Ali Zardari

MNAs from the PTI government’s allied parties, too, signed a petition demanding the National Assembly speaker to issue production orders of Zardari, Saad Rafique, Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement’s (PTM) two MNAs Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir. However, Asad Qaiser issued production orders of Asif Zardari and Khwaja Saad Rafique only.

While speaking on the floor of the house, Asif Ali Zardari offered the government his party’s support in amending the budget which, according to him, needed to be amended to protect people from heavy taxes and price hike.

“The government and the opposition could sit together to discuss issues affecting the economy”, the former president said. “Let’s give the economic policy ownership, so that it remains forever.” Zardari said there was a sense of fear among traders, business community and salaried class about the budget, and that industries were placing ads in newspapers appealing to the government to save them.

“If the budget is so good and so expected and if we are getting money from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), why are people crying, why is industry crying?” he asked. Zardari also said that while the budget raised government salaries, it also increased taxes and that there was a fear amongst businessmen and investors that made them reluctant to invest.

Zardari also called for an end to accountability and arrests of the opposition parties’ leaders in the country saying the government should instead focus on current issues, economic revival and move forward. He reminds that in Sindh, the locust attack on cotton crops is more pressing and needs the government’s immediate attention. He iterates that when the PPP came to power, he didn’t go after other politicians.

“Arresting me doesn’t make any difference to the party. PPP is further strengthened”, he said.