The debate on the budget for 2012-2013 kicked off in the Sindh Assembly on Thursday, with a mix of sycophantic voices praising the ruling party while other MPAs asked why some districts had been more blessed than others.
The day’s proceedings began with a token protest by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) over the lack of effective action by law enforcement agencies and the government to control crime in the city. The MQM’s protest comes after the brother of a former MQM MPA was killed in Shershah on Tuesday, following which traders went on strike on Wednesday, a move that was supported by the party.
The MQM’s deputy parliamentary leader in the Sindh Assembly, Faisal Subzwari, said that if the murder was an “isolated incident we would be worried” but this was not so, because there was a similar attack in Shershah targeting traders.
On October 19, 2010, around 13 workers and owners of shops in the Shershah scrap market were killed when gunmen on motorcycles opened indiscriminate fire. Six shopkeepers were also injured in the attack.
Subzwari said traders had gone on strike three times this year to protest the lack of effective action and nothing had been done despite assurances by the government.
“We allocate millions for the police but we should see results as well,” Subzwari said. He said that police check posts had been established in Shershah but this week’s attack took place despite the police check-post being “ten steps away”.
The party members walked out then as a token sign of protest, however, they returned to the assembly shortly after.
The debate on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year also began on Thursday, partly attended by Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah. Several MPAs from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the MQM spoke on the budget. However, the PPP MPAs, including Anwar Ahmed Khan Mahar and Haji Munawwar Abbasi, were largely appreciative of the budget and praised the government for its focus on development, education and health.
The MQM MPAs, on the other hand, questioned the disparity of funds allocation between the 23 districts in Sindh, largely focusing on why Karachi hadn’t been earmarked as much funds as they had hoped for.
One of the complaints, by MPA Syed Khalid Ahmed, was that the K-4 project be given more money.
Ahmed also said that the works and services scheme were disparate for the 23 districts in Sindh. He also hit out at the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) and said that the long spells of power cuts were merely a way for KESC to offset its losses. “They have left people with no other choice but to resort to other means of getting electricity,” he said.
Several MPAs also questioned where the funds allocated for development projects had gone in recent years. MQM’s Adil Khan said he had not seen any development in the areas of Gadap that are part of his constituency, while another party MPA Muzammil Qureshi said that there had been no work in Gulshan-e-Iqbal. Qureshi also asked why the budgets for jails had been decreased.
The party’s focus on the budget for Karachi – which is its core base – set the stage for the budget discussion in the days ahead.
The MPAs looked prepared to raise more points about what they felt was the unfair treatment of Karachi compared to other districts in Sindh, given that it generates the most revenue, according to them.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2012.
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