PESHAWAR: As the provinces gear up to present their budgets for the next fiscal year following on from the federal government, the PTI-led provincial government seems to be doing its utmost to avoid a return to the assemblies, fearing its fragile position could end up turning into a major embarrassment for it.
It has thus decided to postpone a session of the provincial assembly to present the budget. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government on Friday, once again, retracted from its decision to hold a budget session.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government had earlier called a session of the house on May 14, to present an administrative budget which would tide over the government until a new one is elected into power later this year.
The assembly secretariat had also prepared and uploaded the budget schedule — starting from May 14 until May 28 — on its website.
The government on Friday, however, withdrew its notification on Friday.
Instead, it said that it has summoned a session on May 22, in which it is supposed to present the budget if it can.
Sources in the provincial finance department, however, have all but ruled the chance of presenting a budget any time soon.
“There are no chances of the budget, not for the four transition months or for the entire fiscal year of 2018-19,” the sources said.
A senior official of the K-P government said, “The caretaker government will deal with the four month budget, and for them, it is a mere notification.”
The official said that the Chief Minister Pervez Khattak’s cabinet cannot even enter the assembly hall for fear of the reaction they will have to face from the opposition and particularly from a host of their disgruntled lawmakers who has been accused of selling votes in the Senate elections.
The party had 58 seats in the 122 member house. This left it four short of the requisite votes to pass any motion with a majority vote. By accusing 18 lawmakers of horse-trading, it theoretically whittled those numbers down to just 40. Then earlier in the week, it expelled eight those lawmakers, definitively ruling them out of supporting the party.
Moreover, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) pulled out of the coalition government earlier this month, robbing the PTI of a further seven votes. This has left the party walking on eggshells.
To make matters worse, the assault it mounted on the integrity of its own lawmakers prompted them to seek votes of no-confidence against the chief minister. Opposition parties also obliged, filing their own no-confidence motions.
Finance dept ready
Despite the PTI’s precarious position, the provincial finance department says they are ready to present a budget. Whether it is a four-month-long administrative financial bridge or a budget which covers the entire fiscal year.
“We have to be ready for the political government’s decision. We do not care whether they present it or not, but the confusion is haunting us and it will continue until a caretaker government steps-in,” said a senior official of the K-P finance department.
This was the third time that the government canceled its notification and announced a new date for the session.
Finance ministers’ resignation
With the JI quitting the coalition, its finance minister Muzaffar Said along with other cabinet members from the departing party have quit their government posts.
While rumours continue to circulate on social media websites, the provincial establishment department has yet to formally de-notify them as ministers.
“In our records, all the three ministers from JI are still ministers of the K-P government since we have not received anything to de-notify them,” said the cabinet section as they confirmed to The Express Tribune the absence of formal resignations.
The JI leaders, on the other hand, insist that all the three ministers, including LG Minister Inayatullah Khan, Auqaf, Religious Affairs Minister Habibur Rehman and finance minister Muzaffar Syed submitted their resignations to Khattak last month.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2018.