The budget debate in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly continued to move at a snail’s pace on Monday, amid a heated exchange between Education Minister Sardar Hussain Babak and Sikander Sherpao over the development budget.
Eleven days after the budget was first presented, the assembly has approved a total of seven out of the 59 grant demands. The session on Monday approved only Rs1.2 billion in demands, which account for less than 0.4% of the Rs303-billion budget. The amount approved was for the planning and development department, science and information technology, revenue collection, and the excise and taxation department.
Provincial assembly members continue to have a lackadaisical attitude about the budget, the only bill that the assembly is constitutionally required to pass every year. The debate was supposed to start at 10am, but instead started at 2pm due to a lack of quorum.
During the four hours that the debate lasted, the assembly approved only four grants, since most of the time was spent in the heated argument between the education minister and Sherpao, who is the parliamentary leader for the Pakistan Peoples Party Sherpao.
Sherpao had been asking questions from Planning and Development Minister Rahimdad Khan about proposed cuts in the development budget when Babak rather unexpectedly veered the discussion towards poor law and order in Malakand, and blamed it on former interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, Sikander’s father.
“When terrorists were building tunnels, dumping ammunition and running FM radio stations, where were those so-called champions of Pakhtuns,” said Babak, referring to the PPP-S’ recent attempt to position itself as a protector of Pakhtun rights.
Sikander responded by attacking the ruling Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan. “While Pakhtuns are being killed and maimed, he is not here,” said the PPP-S parliamentarian. “We have been facing these bomb blasts since the 1970s and are not afraid of attacks,” he said, referring to his uncle Hayat Mohammad Khan Sherpao, who was killed in a bomb blast in the 1970s.
Sikander then taunted Babak with the fact that his own family members had joined the PPP-S in Babak’s hometown of Buner. He went on to accuse the entire provincial government of corruption.
“If you were not corrupt, why would people start labelling you ‘Easy Load’?” he thundered.
The cabinet members present at the session tried to respond to Sikander’s allegations by interrupting his speech, which turned the budget debate into a veritable shouting match about the family political histories of the assembly members.
Babak and Minister for Science and Technology Ayub Ashari stood up and started interrupting Sikander’s speech. Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid MPA Nighat Orakzai sided with the PPP-S leader. Babak asked Speaker Kiramtullah Chagarmatti for permission to speak. However, he was denied the floor.
“The budget is government business and if you make this house into Jinnah Park or Chowk Yadgar, it will affect government business,” an angry Chagarmatti told Babak.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2012.
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