PESHAWAR: The government on Monday once again rejected demands from the opposition benches to form a parliamentary commission to probe irregularities in its flagship Billion Tree Tsunami (BTT) and the Bus-Rapid Transport (BRT) projects in the province.
As the session of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly resumed on Monday with Deputy Speaker Mehmood Khan in the chair, Khushdil Khan of the Awami National Party (ANP) asked why the government had borrowed Rs80 billion to build the BRT if the treasury was empty.
He continued that the people are already neck-0deep in debt and now they will also have to repay loans taken by former K-P chief minister Pervaiz Khattak and Imran Khan.
The ANP lawmaker further said that the BTT was the worst example of corruption with a commission visiting one of the sites listed under the project with millions of trees and found it bereft of trees. He alleged that those involved in the corruption had set forests across the province on fire.
Khushdil demanded that a parliamentary commission should be formed to probe both projects.
Ahmed Jundi echoed Khushdil’s apprehensions, remarking that it was unwise to take an Rs100 billion loan for building a 26-kilometre (km) stretch of road that will service just 0.5 million people.
Shagufta Malik, the women’s reserved seat MPA of the ANP, termed the BRT a ‘disastrous’ project for Peshawar as it had damaged businesses and destroyed properties along its length. She demanded the government confess to its failure and announce a deadline for completing the project.
Malik accused the government of ending the last parliamentary commission to hide its corruption. Her allegations were met by a chorus from other opposition lawmakers who demanded a parliamentary commission to probe irregularities in these projects.
K-P Law Minister Sultan Khan explained to the house that the BRT project will be completed soon. However, he maintained that the government cannot yet announce a specific completion date. He further clarified that the project’s cost was Rs66 billion.
Earlier, while responding to questions raised by Malik on the BRT, the officials from the transport department said that the original cost of the project was listed at Rs49 billion which escalated to Rs66 billion after reviewing the estimated cost.
They added that as per the approved project concept (PC)-I of BRT, the provincial government and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) had jointly funded for the project with the bank lending $400 million for the project. However, later both parties agreed on a loan of $335 million.
Transport documents further stated that the cost of the project escalated due to additional work on the project which was later added to the PC-I including restoration of pathways, U-turns and pavements. It added that the original deadline for completing the project was August 14, 2017, but the approved PC-1 changed the date to June 30, 2019.
The house later decided to forward the bill on violence against women to a select committee after amendments.
Law Minister Sultan presented the K-P Razmak Cadet College Regulation (Repeal) Ordinance 2019, in the house.
The human rights amendment bill 2019 was also presented in the assembly for approval. The bill proposes the provincial government set up a regional office in every district which would be headed by the deputy commissioner (DC) of the respective district. The DCs will present annual reports to the Human Rights Directorate.
A bill regarding domestic violence was also presented in the assembly. However, Deputy Speaker Mehmood tabled a motion to send the bill to a select committee.
Opposition member from Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) Inayatullah Khan said that no bill can be prepared which falls against teachings of Islam, adding that the draft bill contained various provisions which were against Islamic teachings.
He demanded to send the bill to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) for rationalisation. The bill was forwarded to select committee while the speaker directed to include opposition members in the committee.
The assembly also approved a bill for the provision of free legal aid to the poor.
An amendment in the assembly’s rules and regulations were also presented in the session. However, owing to a large number of amendments, they were referred to a committee.
Law Minister Sultan also tabled the women inheritance bill which prescribes legal action against people who deprive women of their due share in the inheritance.
Later, the session was adjourned indefinitely due to lack of quorum.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2019.