Provincial Assembly: Pre-budget debate marred by poor attendance

Pasha says 32 per cent growth recorded over year

Aroosa Shaukat March 31, 2016
Punjab Assembly. PHOTO: APP

LAHORE: Marred by poor attendance, the pre-budget debate in the Provincial Assembly (PA) culminated in the session being adjourned till Friday morning just after the delivery of the opening speech by Finance Minister Ayesha Ghaus Pasha.

The 90-minute session concluded right after Pasha opened the debate for recommendations on the provincial annual budget 2016-2017. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI’s) Saadia Sohail pointed out the lack of quorum as lawmakers silently vacated the opposition benches during the finance minister’s speech.

With the exception of the debate, the session largely failed to address the agenda. None of the seven questions on it were taken up during question hour courtesy the absence of pertinent lawmakers.  A call attention notice pertaining to Sunday’s carnage was not taken up due to the absence of Leader of the Opposition Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed who had moved it. Nonetheless, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah informed the PA that he had already given a briefing on this account and would present an update in case of any movement.

The absence of parliamentary secretaries which entailed adjournment motions to remain unanswered irked Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal who sought explanations for the absences. Business on the agenda involving the extension six Ordinances and laying of another were not taken up.

In her speech, Pasha said 32 per cent growth had been recorded over the year due to the government’s policies. She said the government would focus attention on agriculture, livestock, education, health, employment and power generation projects this year. The finance minister said public departments had been making use of IT to introduce more effective strategies.

Pasha also defended various government initiatives including the Land Record Management Information System, the Quaid-i-Azam Solar Power Park, the Saaf Pani project and the rural roads programme. She said there had been a cent per cent year-on-year increase in the utilisation of development funds. Pasha expressed hope that this would further improve over the coming fiscal year. The finance minister also shed light on the implementation of annual monitor systems to inspect performance. “We reaffirm that the government is making concerted efforts to realise all targets set for the year,” she said.

However, as the minister solicited recommendations, the lack of quorum—with fewer than 40 MPAs present—was pointed out. A heated argument continued between Minister Sanaullah and Mian Aslam Iqbal of the opposition following the session’s suspension. A 30-minute recess that went on till an hour also failed to remedy the lack of quorum.

Both, the finance and law ministers were absent when the session reconvened. The opposition benches remained desolate with the exception of the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP’s) Qazi Ahmad Saeed who pointed out the lack of quorum.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2016.

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