Setting aside the 'tradition' of creating pandemonium in the Punjab Assembly, the treasury and opposition lawmakers have agreed to hear each other’s speeches with patience during the budget session.
The decision was taken following public criticism over the recent gory incidents witnessed in the National Assembly where the lawmakers from both sides used abusive language against each other. The lawmakers said Speaker Chaudhry Pervez Elahi had persuaded them to avoid any untoward incident.
As Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz Sharif started his speech, there was silence in the hall. He grilled the government over its unfulfilled promises during the past three years.
“The budget was a jugglery of figures and there was nothing in it to provide relief to the poor," he claimed.
He said if the PTI wanted to defeat the PML-N in elections, it could only be done through performance rather than false claims. The opposition leader said the government had ruined almost all sectors, including health, education, law and order, roads, infrastructure and agriculture, owing to its flawed policies.
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He said the previous PML-N government had obtained loans of Rs25,000 billion but the PTI had obtained Rs48,000 billion so far. He said the government issued false growth rate statistics and then apologised.
Hamza claimed that the poverty rate had increased manifold. Prices of essential food items have multiplied and gone out of the reach of the poor people.
He said medicines, especially those of cancer, were not available in the markets. He said the the situation was the result of the province of 120 million people being rune remotely from the federal capital.
He claimed that the PML-N government had collected provincial taxes amounting to Rs197 billion but the PTI government could collect only Rs78 billion. The previous government had increased non-tax revenue by 84 per cent to Rs117 billion, while the PTI government had generated Rs123 billion.
He also said that the PML-N government did not give any subsidy on sugar, owing to which his relatives faced a loss of Rs1 billion, while on the other hand the PTI government had given Rs3 billion worth of subsidy. He also claimed the his party's government had expanded the road network in the province by 8,000 kilometres at a cost of Rs86 billion.
He alleged that the government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was hiding behind stay orders obtained from courts after corruption in the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit System project.
Hamza urged the government to make functional the standing committees of the assembly. He said his party was ready to play its due role if the government would adopt a positive attitude.
Speaking in response, Punjab Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal mentioned the Model Town police firing incident, prompting PML-N members to urge him to focus on the budget.
PML-N member Samiullah Khan urged his own party's lawmakers not the interrupt PTI leaders' speeches.
Iqbal termed the previous government's policies flawed praised the new budget as a ray of hope for the poor.
Earlier, PML-N’s Malik Ahmed presented a privilege motion lamenting that the Punjab Emergency Council Bill had been passed but the department concerned was reluctant to form its rules.
The speaker also expressed resentment over the matter. The law minister tried to pacify the matter but in vain.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18h, 2021.