Govt to release Royalty funds report on Friday

PTI lawmaker continues ‘whistle protest’

Sohail Khattak February 14, 2018
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in session. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

PESHAWAR: Harangued by the shouting and whistling from one of their own for a second consecutive day for apparently not receiving oil and gas royalties for his constituency, the ruling party on Tuesday agreed to present a report in the provincial assembly on royalties paid thus far within two days.

During the question hour on Monday, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker Amjad Afridi from Kohat had started protesting against unpaid royalties for his area. When Deputy Speaker Dr Mehar Taj Roghani stopped him from speaking on the finance department’s stubbornness in releasing oil and gas royalty share for Kohat Division, Afridi started whistling. The deputy speaker failed to control the house and restore order and resorted to adjourning proceedings prematurely.

As the session began on Tuesday, Afridi put the whistle to his lips and blew. After a few blows, the speaker allowed him to express his views.

He asked the finance minister to fulfil his six-month-old commitment for releasing the oil and gas share of the Kohat division within 10 days in line with a ruling from Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Finance Minister Muzaffar Said said that he would take up the matter with Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and would undertake all necessary efforts to resolve the issue.

Said’s response, however, only served to infuriate Afridi further and he publicly berated the finance minister as “helpless” in the house.

“If the government wants to resolve this issue, then the finance minister should call the finance secretary and issue a notification for the release of our share, otherwise, the protest would continue,” Afridi warned.

The Kohat lawmaker reminded the house that he has no other forum left to demand the rights of his people, lamenting that his own party was treating him like one of the opposition members.

“I have not been ousted from my party. If they (K-P government) consider me as a member of the opposition, then the party should issue a notification of my expulsion so that I may sit on the opposition benches.”

Afridi was joined by Malik Qasim of PTI from Karak who also demanded the release of royalty funds, adding that they are obligated to answer the people of their constituencies for delays in completion of development schemes.

The issue was settled after Said and Information Minister Shah Farman assured the disgruntled lawmakers that the government will either release a report on the oil and gas royalty for different areas of the province and Malakand’s share in the net hydel profit by Friday or release the funds.

Earlier, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawmaker Fakhr Azam Wazir expressed his anger when his questions relating to the health department were deferred by the deputy speaker since health minister Shahram Khan was absent.

Wazir protested that his questions had been delayed for the fourth time.

“You are violating the Constitution which says that the cabinet has a collective responsibility and any member of the cabinet could answer these question in place of the health minister, but you deferred them,” Wazir retorted.

Sardar Babak of the Awami National Party also criticised the deputy speaker for taking the government’s side with allegations that she was trying to “cover up” the weaknesses of the government whenever they are pointed out in the house.

“I think that one thing is missing (in the speaker or deputy speaker chair) which is a cap of PTI. If it continues this way, then I will bring a PTI cap for you,” he said, as he accused the deputy speaker and the speaker of giving preference to the government agenda items first while deferring other matters.

Later, lawmakers from the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and PTI raised slogans against one another over the by-elections in Lodhran. The PML-N had trounced the PTI in the polls on Monday.

The house also prayed for noted lawyer Asma Jahangir.

The house also adopted a resolution moved by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) lawmaker Muhammad Ali regarding the inhuman treatment of Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia and demanded that the federal government take the issues faced by Pakistanis seriously and also try to facilitate them.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2018.


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