In the absence of the majority of treasury lawmakers, the opposition enjoyed a field day in the National Assembly berating the government for doling out development funds to its ruling stronghold of Punjab at the cost of other provinces.
Opposition leader Khurshid Shah struck a chord in the lower house of parliament while accusing the PML-N government of gross discrimination in disbursement of funds and development projects in Punjab as compared to other provinces and autonomous regions.
Referring to a recent report submitted in the Senate, the PPP leader said out of the Rs19 billion earmarked for parliamentarians, Rs10.40 billion or about 55 percent was given to Punjab alone.
Compared to this, the most neglected, under-developed province of Balochistan received Rs445 million while Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa got Rs480 million. Both provinces received far lesser funds than even Islamabad, which got Rs700 million alone.
When a lawmaker from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) asked Shah what share his region received, the opposition leader quipped: “Constant speeches from your side have won Fata Rs1.1 billion.”
Political and other differences aside, Shah said provinces were already feeling alienated but the facts were showing how the federation was being run. “We the opposition do not mind allocating even Rs40 billion to Punjab, but other provinces should also get a fair share,” he added.
Taking the unjust allocation debate further, the PPP leader said in 2014 alone, of the 3,083 small schemes worth Rs32.5 billion initiated in the country, around 2,129 projects were given to Punjab while K-P got only four such projects.
“It is understandable they are your political rivals, but at least give something to your own legislators in the province,” Shah remarked while referring to the PTI-led government in K-P.
Similarly, 492 projects were based in Sindh, 276 in Fata, 94 in Islamabad while Balochistan got 88 such schemes.
Citing the example of Lahore, the lawmaker questioned how could the Rs200-billion Orange Line Metro project catering to a small number of people in a city be defended.
Mehmood Khan Achakzai chipped in suggesting such discriminations should be debated in the house.
“I doubt,” Shah replied. “Does the PM even know about these things or is he kept in the dark? I will be happy if the government proves my figures wrong.”
None of the cabinet ministers were present on the treasury benches and neither did anyone from the government side reply to his speech.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2016.
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