Non-Muslim members of the Punjab Assembly will observe a token strike during June 10’s budget session in response to the Punjab government’s decision to disallow a Christian member from presenting the budget.
“Although the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has decided there will be no desk thumping during the speech, minority members will protest in front of the assembly speaker’s dais and wear black armbands,” PPP MPA Parvez Rafique, who is also a member of the central organising committee of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, told The Express Tribune. “They will speak on points of order and record their sentiments regarding the Punjab government’s discrimination against the Christian community.”
The provincial government has withdrawn the additional charge of finance and planning and development department from Kamran Michael, who is the only Christian minister in the Punjab cabinet. A Muslim minister, Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman, has been appointed in his place and will now present the budget.
Michael, who belongs to the PML-N, is the provincial minister for human rights and minorities and was proposed to present the budget. But, according to sources within the PML-N, some party legislators expressed reservations over a non-Muslim presenting the budget, fearing it could upset their ‘conservative’ vote bank. Sources said party workers have forced Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to appoint Rehman.
Punjab’s three previous budgets were presented by former finance minister Tanvir Ashraf Kaira of the PPP. However, as PML-N kicked PPP out of the provincial cabinet, the CM’s senior adviser Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa was given charge. After two weeks, Michael was appointed to head the ministry.
Rafique said that eight Punjab Assembly members, who are on reserved seats, have committed that they will stage a protest. “The budget is for all people of the province, including minorities,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ