Govt ordered to furnish accurate information to lawmakers

Shehzad Munshi says funds for minorities are not released in time

Aroosa Shaukat April 08, 2016
Punjab Assembly. PHOTO: APP

LAHORE: Deputy Speaker Sardar Sher Ali Gorchani expressed reservations on Friday over government departments’ failure to respond accurately to queries posed by lawmakers at the Provincial Assembly.

Gorchani, who chaired the pre-budget debate, warned the department officials of consequences if they continued to disappoint members in this regard. He told the House the speaker had written to the chief minister apprising him of the departments’ negligence in responding to lawmakers’ queries.

He called for a close liaison between parliamentary secretaries and the departments concerned so that the members’ queries were properly addressed.

The remarks followed the question hour on the Communications and Works (C&W) Department during which some Treasury lawmakers expressed dissatisfaction with the answers furnished by the department.

Arshad Malik raised the mater of potential flooding of Qutub Shahana village due to the construction of a bridge in the area over River Ravi. This triggered an argument between Malik and Parliamentary Secretary Naeem Akhtar. When Malik accused the department of providing incorrect information, the Chair asked him to bring an adjournment motion regarding the matter.

Orange Line

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) Mian Aslam Iqbal criticised the Orange Line Metro Train project. He said the construction work had damaged Multan Road that had been widened at a cost of Rs3 billion. He accused the C&W Department officials of receiving kickbacks in the project.

The parliamentary secretary dismissed the allegations. He also defended the Orange Line as a “need-based project”.

Police’s performance

Pakistan Muslim League Quaid’s Vickas Hasan Mokal said there had been no improvement in the performance of Punjab Police although their budget had been increased over the years.

He questioned police’s actions in the wake of a suicide attack at Lahore’s Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park leaving at least 70 people dead. “Give their [police’s] budget to the army and Rangers because apparently they are the ones who have been maintaining order. What is the justification for increasing their [police’s] budget?”

Health Department

The Health Department also came under attack. Opposition members inquired about the execution of projects aimed at providing health facilities.

Calls were made for larger investment in the Saaf Pani project and schemes related to basic health facilities and education.

Raheela Anwar said the finance minister must ensure that his political opponents were not deprived of development projects. She complained about lack of safe drinking water, colleges and a road connecting Jhelum to Pind Dadan Khan in her constituency.

PTI’s Nabeela Hakim raised the opposition’s long-standing demand for the empowerment of standing committees to make budgetary proposals. She stressed the need for presenting quarterly performance reports regarding budget utilisation to keep track of targets set by the government.

Treasury member Ahmed Khan Baloch’s criticism of the government was well received by Opposition members who thumped their desks as he spoke.

Baloch called for incorporating lawmakers’ recommendations for the improvement of agriculture sector in government plans. “Is the sole purpose of us sitting here to raise hands for voting?”

Funds for minorities

Shehzad Munshi said the funds reserved for minorities’ welfare were not released in time. Of the Rs1 billion allocated for minorities last year, he said only Rs150 million had been released.

PML-N’s Makhdum Hashim Jawan Bakht called on the minister to focus on the utilisation of allocated budgets. The minister will wind up the debate on Monday. As per new rules of the House, the last 30 minutes were dedicated to the zero hour – which dealt with lawmakers’ concerns.

Sheikh Alauddin’s demand for investigation of poor maintenance of  Lawrence Garden failed to interest the Chair.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2016.