The government has spent many millions of rupees developing hill stations in north Punjab like Murree, but spent nothing on the hill station of Fort Munro in the Suleiman mountain range in DG Khan, complained an MPA from southern Punjab on Monday.
During a discussion on the supplementary budget, Mohsin Leghari of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid compared the spending on Murree over the last two years to the spending on Fort Munro.
The supplementary budget for 2009-10 included around Rs90 million for Baghe Shaheedan at Kashmir Point and to upgrade other parks in Murree, while Fort Munro was ignored. The supplementary budget for 2010-2011 included another Rs20.68 million for Baghe Shaheedan.
The budget for 2010-11 of the Tourism Department included allocations for half a dozen new and ongoing schemes in Murree, and none in Fort Munro. “While the Punjab government is spending millions of rupees on Murree, Fort Munro is facing a lack of drinking water,” he said.
He demanded that the Rs100 million block allocation for the Tourism Department be spent instead on the development of Fort Munro.
Finance Minister Kamran Michael defended the supplementary budget, saying that it had been swelled by the 50 per cent raise given to government employees last year and the devastating Indus floods. The supplementary budget will be voted on today.
Earlier, the opposition and government accused each other of rigging the Azad Jammu and Kashmir elections, with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) observing a token strike in protest.
Also on Monday, PPP MPA Syed Nazim Hussain Shah caused a stir in the house when he appeared to say that most Christians were ignorant about their religion, including the finance minister.
Shah told the house that he did not wish to participate in the general discussion on the supplementary budget because Michael was completely ignorant. He said that Michael did not know even know why Christians went to churches on Sunday, and that many Christians like the minister did not know how their religious festivals and their culture developed.
Michael protested to the chair, Deputy Speaker Rana Mashhood Khan, that Shah had no business discussing Christianity.
But Shah rose again to explain to the house the miracles performed by Jesus Christ (pbuh) and the religious significance of going to church on Sundays. He said that as Michael did not know anything about his religion, he wouldn’t know anything about the Finance Department’s affairs either so talking about the supplementary budget was pointless.
The minister responded that Shah shouldn’t make assumptions. “Shah Sahib himself is a Pir. He should know that every person’s faith is personal,” he said.
He said that while his party, the PML-Nawaz, had appointed the first Christian minister to deliver the budget speech in the Punjab Assembly, the PPP government in the Centre had failed to protect Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian minister in the federal cabinet.
He said that Shah had illustrated to the house his “negative thinking” about minorities. Shah tried to respond, but was stopped by the deputy speaker and his party parliamentary leader Maj (r) Zulifqar Gondal.
PPP MPA Pervez Rafique condemned Shah’s statements and said that he would bring the matter to the attention of PPP chief Asif Zardari.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2011.
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