dailypeghamISLAMABAD: Lawmakers in the upper house of parliament on Tuesday voiced serious concern over a recent interceptor missile test by India which, according to them, has disturbed the balance of power in the South Asian region.

“The balance of power has been disturbed in South Asia the way it was disturbed following India’s nuclear tests in 1998,” said PML-N Senator Javed Abbasi while speaking on an adjournment motion he had moved a day earlier.

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“I’m not aware of our military’s response, but I suggest that the security establishment take note of the Indian interceptor missile test and devise a strategy accordingly,” he said.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz shared the government’s response. “Massive conventional nuclear and missile development programmes pursued by India are now leading to nuclearisation of the Indian Ocean,” he said.

“The development of an anti-ballistic missile system (ABM) may give India a false sense of security, leading to unexpected complications. Such actions are also contrary to the policy of a peaceful and friendly neighbourhood, which our prime minister has repeatedly espoused. Pakistan has serious concerns over these developments and will take all necessary measures to augment its defence capabilities,” Aziz told the Senate.

Last month, India claimed successful test fire of an indigenously developed supersonic interceptor missile, which it says, is capable of destroying ballistic missiles of any make.

“The [interceptor missile] test has increased military threats from India,” said PML-Q Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed. Referring to an upcoming meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Seoul, Mushahid said ground was being paved for India’s elevation to the NSG.

“This is our diplomatic failure. The Indians are encircling us from all sides. Even our immediate neighbours, like Afghanistan and Iran, have gone to India. It’s a result of our failed diplomacy and traditionally passive foreign policy,” he added.

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PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar blamed flawed security policies for the foreign policy debacle. “Isn’t it a reality that we protected non-state actors to further our security agenda? Our age-old policy of harbouring non-state actors is taking toll on us,” he said. Chairman Raza Rabbani said the terms of engagement with the United States needed to be reviewed and a clear strategy must be devised to respond to the situation created by India’s missile test. “The matter should be discussed in the committee of whole.”

Earlier, the Senate witnessed strong criticism on the finance bill 2016-17 by opposition lawmakers. PPP’s Saeed Ghani slammed the federal budget as a “product of forged facts, false figures and fabricated claims”. “When they [PML-N] came to power, they gave an impression that they were the best and we [PPP] were the worst. Today, after three years, I feel that if we are the worst, they are even worst.”

Ghani cited related figures from the State of the Economics Survey to suggest that growth targets in 10 of 18 sectors were not met. “The government claims to have achieved 4.7% GDP growth rate. This is impossible when targets in 10 of the 18 sectors are unmet.” Ghani said Rs650 billion circular debt was not reflected in the budget and the debt to GDP ratio was 66%. He said budget deficit was bigger than 4.3%.

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Jamat-e-Islami Ameer Sirajul Haq said the budget was traditional in its outlook. “It’s neither welfare nor development budget. It seems that one team is preparing budget all the way since the Shaukat Aziz era.” Only 0.42% has been allocated for health, he regretted.

ANP Senator Shahi Syed called the budget a ‘jugglery of words’. “A country plagued by corruption and wrecked by terrorism can end up preparing the kind of budget this government has presented.” He appealed to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to “end discrimination against smaller provinces and give them their due share”.

PML-N Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq defended the budget, saying it took into account all pertinent indicators influencing Pakistan’s economy and duly addressed them. The budgetary allocations for Baitul Mal have been doubled from Rs2 billion to Rs4 billion and that of BISP from Rs40 billion to Rs115 billion. “The new budget is a harbinger of change,” she said.

Senator Babar slammed the government for abolishing in the budget the proposed Western route of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “I demand of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to announce the up-gradation of the Western route. Or else, let me share with sorrow, CPEC has become controversial.”