In Punjab, a Christian can’t present the provincial budget

Some PML-N MPAs object to faith of fellow party member Kamran Michael.


Abdul Manan June 07, 2011

LAHORE:


Several provincial legislators in Punjab belonging to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have objected to Punjab cabinet member Kamran Michael presenting the budget on grounds that he is Christian, sources within the party told The Express Tribune.


Sources say PML-N leaders are in a bind trying to figure out who to assign the finance ministry portfolio before the budget is presented before the Punjab Assembly on June 10.

Several party members are reported to have objected to a Christian being given such a prominent position as that of delivering the annual budget speech and fear losing votes amongst some of their conservative, right-wing vote bank. The PML-N is already afraid of losing ground in its heartland of Punjab to other parties that have been making inroads in the province in recent months.

Michael had been given charge of the finance ministry in March, after the PML-N kicked out the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) from Punjab’s ruling coalition. He  replaced the PPP’s Tanveer Ashraf Kaira, in addition to retaining his earlier portfolio of human rights and minorities affairs.

However, while Michael was minister in theory, in practise the position has been managed by Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa, senior adviser to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who was given charge of the finance and planning and division department for two months after the PPP was kicked out.

Sources say that Michael was forbidden from even contacting the finance secretary or the chairman of the planning and development department.

Michael holds the finance ministry as an “additional portfolio”, which means that he is authorised to present the budget. However, he has not been assigned the ministry itself.  Rule 136 of the Punjab Assembly Rules of Procedure requires the provincial budget to be presented by the finance minister or another minister who has been assigned his portfolio.

According to the rules of the Punjab Assembly, the residual powers of any unfilled portfolios in the provincial cabinet are transferred to the chief minister until a new minister is appointed. Shahbaz currently holds 20 portfolios himself, having failed to appoint cabinet ministers after kicking out the PPP from the ruling coalition.

Sources said that PML-N members have suggested that the “additional portfolio” for the finance ministry be given to Education and Excise Minister Mujtaba Shuja Rehman in order to avoid Michael presenting the budget. A final decision on the matter is expected to be taken at a party meeting on Tuesday (today).

Since the chief minister technically occupies the powers of finance minister, he could present the budget himself, without having to assign the portfolio to any other cabinet member.

Punjab Government spokesman Senator Pervaiz Rashid told The Express Tribune that Rehman is most likely to present the Punjab budget for fiscal year 2012.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2011.

COMMENTS (126)

Rakib | 9 years ago | Reply @AA Choudhary: That the Prez will be a Muslim of age no less than 40 was decided almost 6 decades ago. Suspensions and many amendments have taken place since then but the Constitution of the predominantly Sunni land has not demanded that only a Sunni can be so. (To the best of my knowledge the incumbent is a Shia). However,I concede, if "dynamic" Constitution of tomorrow comes alive today in a crystal-ball or in some one's hyper imagination your dire predictions will have some value, limited even as it may be.. As they say, anything can happen anywhere anytime. For the record,as far as present discussion is concerned, I have not given any argument of "other nations having a constitutional provision to restrict a citizen's right".A Right has to be given in the first place before ever Restricting it. For example in a country where a Catholic has no Right to be a PM since the job is reserved for an Anglican, question of Restricting a non-existent Right does not arise. Same applies to non-Muslims for the job of President of Islamic Pakistan. The matter was settled in Cromwellian England and in Liaquat Ali's Pakistan a long while back. Amending a Constitution to include or exclude by due democratic process is a different thing altogether and that is the right of the electorate exercised through the elected. I think you may need to know more about Constitution of Pakistan (considering you believe that the then sitting Judge Cornelius actually wrote it) and that is why I urged you to do some browsing first. However to the one that truly believes that Zurich would ban additional minarets not so much as to conform to Swiss sense of aesthetics about the city's skyline but merely because Pak Prez can only be a Muslim & so on, my suggestion may not be useful. With regard to your frequently repeated counsel to Pakistan, probably your Pakistani readers or Islamist fundamentalists will take it under advisement. I have no comments to offer. With that, I thank you for a lively discussion and bid you farewell..
AA Choudhary | 9 years ago | Reply @Rakib: Constitutions are living documents. They determine the nations future path. They are dynamic and not static. They are supposed to be analyzed and interpretted. So please don't mind if I express my opinion. Look at what the amendments passed by Zia-ul-Haq have done to the behavior of Pakistani masses. Unless you use your mind to look into the future impact of a constitutional factor then all you get is a moribund document. When you say that what has happened in Lebanon or else where has nothing to do with what will happen in Pakistan, you forget your own argument of 'other nations having a constitutional provision to restrict a citizen's right' to any position in the country. I am glad you give me the right to hold on to my opinions and biases. This shows your magnanimity but please tell all Pakistanis and particularly the religious right not to discriminate and persecute the minorities for their opinions and biases. Let them exercise their freedom of conscious.
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