Opposition, govt trade barbs

Term money bill as ‘deficit’ in budget session because govt failed to raise revenues

Shahid Hamid June 22, 2019

PESHAWAR: Members of the opposition benches in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly on Friday vociferously rejected the provincial budget for the fiscal year 2019-20, terming it as a deficit budget.

After the budget for the next fiscal was presented by K-P Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra on Tuesday, the provincial assembly reconvened on Friday for the post-budget session.

Leader of the Opposition in the K-P Assembly Akram Khan Durrani kicked off the post-budget debate. He contended that the current budget had been tabled with Rs65 billion deficit.

Elaborating his argument, he said that at the outset of the fiscal year, the government had estimated receipts at Rs648 billion. However, this was later revised downwards Rs587 billion, presenting a deficit of Rs61 billion.

Furthermore, he said that the annual development plan for the province was set at Rs71 billion which was revised during the course of the year to Rs56 billion to make up for the shortfall. To make matters worse, revenues from the province’s resources had fallen from Rs65 billion to Rs18 billion.

Figures mentioned in the budget for the current fiscal year were deceptive, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) leader said. The former chief minister of the province went on to claim that the next provincial budget will also be one of deficit as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government had failed to increase revenues while Rs24 billion in liabilities were shown as savings of the provincial government.

He noted that the allocation of Rs82 billion in the annual development plan was never released nor utilized by the government.

Moreover, he said that the government was only giving false hopes to residents of the newly-merged districts which was only making their lives more miserable.

“We demanded that the development funds for the erstwhile federally administered tribal areas (FATA) should be released to ease their lives and a probe must be conducted into the billion tree tsunami project,” Durrani stated, as he also sought a probe into the Bus Rapid Transit project being built in Peshawar.

He was also critical of the proposed changes to the retirement age of provincial government officers, noting that it will hamper the cycle of job generation in the market in the province.

MMA’s Inyatullah Khan also contested the figures presented in the money bill, noting that they were based on false figures. He claimed that due to the failed policies of the government, children are leaving government-run schools after completing primary classes.

Verbal jousting

The session grew tense after members of the opposition and treasury benches exchanged harsh words

The parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Sher Azam lashed out the PTI federal and provincial governments, accusing them of practising revenge politics.

He also used derogatory language against some provincial ministers as members of the opposition encircled the assembly speaker’s chair.

The opposition members staged a protest and chanted slogans against the PTI leadership.

Azam said that today Indian government has set a model for democracy in the world where members of the treasury and opposition benches are of the perfect age, which is why the business of parliament there is running smoother. He then proceeded to deride the government ministers as immature. At this, members of the PTI-led government started agitating against the opposition and complained to the speaker.

PPP leader Nighat Orakzai and the PTI’s Fazal Hakeem also exchanged harsh words, which led to the encirclement of the speaker's chair in the assembly hall. Treasury members also labelled opposition members as thieves and that they were making noises when their leaders were caught. They also demanded that PPP leaders withdraw their disparaging remarks.

K-P Assembly Deputy Speaker Mahmood Jan, who was deputizing for Speaker Mushtaq Ghani, warned the PPP leader to avoid using non-parliamentary language.  The government members also walked out of the house for 10 minutes to protest against the language used by the opposition.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2019.

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