ISLAMABAD: For all its rhetoric on Balochistan, the federal government, in the last four years, has initiated only one new scheme in the province – the rest are all projects from former president Pervez Musharraf’s era.
Meanwhile, the premier took Rs6.1 billion from the development funds allocated for Balochistan, and along with another Rs25 billion from his discretionary funds, doled it out to select parliamentarians in the outgoing fiscal.
The revelations were made in the Senate Standing Committee on Finance meeting on Friday, currently in session to debate budgetary proposals.
For the outgoing fiscal, the government had allocated Rs30 billion for Balochistan’s development projects but actually spent Rs24 billion, said Planning Secretary Asif Bajwa, while responding to queries raised by Senators from Balochistan.
Senator Humayun Khan Mandokhel, hailing from Balochistan, revealed that the government has initiated only one project worth Rs0.68 billion in last four years. Neither the finance ministry nor Planning Commission officials who were present in the meeting challenged the Senator’s claim. “The funds allocated for Balochistan’s projects are being used in Multan,” Mandokhel said.
Against that, an amount of Rs80 billion has been spent on Multan, and another Rs60 billion on Larkana, he added.
Mandokhel said that Musharraf initiated Rs50 billion worth of schemes in Balochistan, and the present government is just completing them.
The Planning Secretary briefed the panel that the government does not consider regional parity while approving new projects, and that schemes are approved on the basis of needs and available resources. Senator Sardar Fateh Mohammad Hasney of the Pakistan Peoples Party also protested over ignoring Balochistan, and demanded a review of the existing discretionary policy of the government.
“The Constitution binds the government to ensure regional parity in development and by not doing so the government is violating the Constitution,” said Opposition Leader in the Upper House Senator Ishaq Dar.
The panel unanimously recommended that the government reconsider its next year’s Rs360 billion public sector development programme, and make adjustments for Balochistan’s projects, but the Planning Secretary said that out of Rs360 billion, an amount of Rs222 billion is committed and cannot be diverted. In addition, the government also opposed a move to divert Rs22 billion premier’s discretionary fund for the next fiscal.
The committee also recommended writing off markup on agriculture loans in flood-stricken areas and making a comprehensive plan to link Gwadar port with the rest of the country.
Senator Ishaq Dar criticised Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for doling out Rs33.1 billion to blue-eyed parliamentarians in the name of development projects during the outgoing fiscal.
The amount is Rs6.1 billion, or 22.5%, higher than his development discretionary grant. It is exclusive of another Rs5 billion distributed among 442 parliamentarians.
The government has allocated Rs22 billion for the premier’s discretionary grant for next fiscal. Senator Dar proposed to cut this fund to only Rs1 billion and allocate the rest to resolving the energy crisis.
Constitutionally, he said, the premier has only nine months in office and allocating Rs22 billion to him is unethical and unjustified.
“The premier will use this discretionary fund for political purposes in the upcoming elections,” Dar said. He also proposed slashing another Rs5 billion, allocated to parliamentarians, to Rs1 billion.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2012.
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