Balochistan MPAs injured in clash with police

Provincial budget of Rs584.1b with deficit of Rs84.6b presented


Mohammad Zafar June 18, 2021
SCREENGRAB

QUETTA:

At least three protesting Balochistan MPAs were injured in clash with police on Friday as opposition lawmakers staged a sit-in outside the provincial assembly to stop the government from presenting the budget.

However, Provincial Finance Minister Zahoor Buledi later presented a Rs584.1 billion budget for the next fiscal year that carried a hefty development stimulus of Rs237.2 billion and a deficit of Rs84.6 billion.

The opposition lawmakers of the JUI-F, BNP-M, PkMAP and independent members along with their supporters have been camping outside the assembly building for the last few days in protest against the coalition government in the province led by chief minister Jam Kamal for refusing to allocate development funds for their constituencies in the next year’s budget.

The opposition parties had blocked national highways passing through many cities and towns of Balochistan, including Quetta, Chagai, Washuk, Kharan and Nushki in protest against the government a day earlier.

They had announced that they would not allow the government to present the budget until their suggested development schemes were made part of the provincial Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for the next financial year.

The budget session was delayed by at least two hours because of the protest as the opposition lawmakers had locked the assembly gates from inside to prevent the treasury members from entering the building.

 

The police had to break open the gate of the MPAs Hostel using an armoured vehicle to let the treasury lawmakers enter the assembly.

Three opposition members of the assembly reportedly suffered injuries when they tried to impede the police vehicle from breaking open the gate.

They were later identified as Ahmed Nawaz Baloch, Babu Rahim and Abdul Wahid Siddiqui.

Later, the police clashed with the protesters outside the assembly as they refused to clear the premises.

The police used batons and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd to open the main entrance.

A few unidentified activists of the opposition parties vandalised the assembly building and attacked the chief minister and some of his cabinet colleagues.

The adviser and parliamentary secretary on information suffered slight injuries.

 

 

Several hundred policemen had been deployed in and around the assembly and all roads leading to it were closed by parking heavy trucks and fences, causing massive traffic logjam in the provincial capital.

Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani said in a statement that no constituency had been ignored in the budget proposals, adding that multiple development projects had been included in the opposition’s constituencies.

 

Later speaking at a joint news conference, MNA Maulana Abdul Wasey of the JUI-F, opposition leader Maliki Sikandar Khan, parliamentary leader of BNP-M Malik Naseer Ahmed Shahwani and PkMAP's Nasarullah Zerey alleged that the government itself was responsible for the incident.

They added that four MPAs and 10 activists were injured in the clash with police. They said the opposition would lodge an FIR against the chief minister for “using state power” against elected members and political activists.

They warned that if the police refused to register FIR against the chief minister, the opposition would approach the Balochistan High Court.

The opposition, they said, had decided to boycott the entire budget session and would not enter the assembly.

In the provincial assembly, Finance Minister Buledi said the government was presenting a ‘balanced budget’ that focused on development of the province despite serious financial difficulties.

He said the next year’s spending plan was aimed at inclusive growth and development of backward areas.

Balochistan is expecting federal transfers of Rs355.9 billion, province’s own tax and nontax receipts of Rs103.2 billion, cash carryover of Rs15.5 billion and foreign project assistance of Rs17.3 billion to finance its total current and development expenditure of Rs584.1 billion.

Thus, the province is facing a resource shortfall of Rs84.6 billon for its annual development programme, which it will have to either fill through savings on the current revenue expenditure size or by slashing its development spending like in the outgoing year.

The provincial government had allocated Rs156.5 billion for development during the ongoing financial year, which was later revised downwards to Rs104.6 billion due to a deficit of Rs87.6 billon.

The budget has increased health expenditure to Rs38.5 billion from Rs31.4 billion allocated in the outgoing year.

The education expenditure was increased marginally to Rs71.9 billion from Rs70.3 billion while the allocation for social protection was doubled to Rs10.7 billion.

A sum of Rs3.6 billion has been set aside for combating the Covid-19 pandemic in the province.

The minister announced creation of 5,854 government jobs, launch of health insurance cards to provide free healthcare of up to Rs1 million a year to 1.9 million families, construction of 100 middle schools, setting up of a food security revolving fund and establishment of emergency reforms centres on highways.

He announced several initiatives for the fishermen, youth, minorities, women, destitute people and students.

Buledi also said the salaries and pension of provincial employees had been increased by 10% in line with the federal decision.

He added that the government had allowed a disparity reduction allowance for its employees in BPS1-19, whose allowances were less than their basic pay.

He also announced plans to launch an anticipatory pension under which the retiring government employees would receive 65% of their last basic pay as pension till the completion of their retirement documents. The government also plans to fund the provincial fund with an investment of Rs13 billion.

The minister said the government was taking measures to boost the province’s own taxes through automation with the help of the State Bank of Pakistan and improving tax regime and administration.

The next budget targets tax revenue of Rs34.2 billion against the original estimates of Rs20.9 billion for the present year. The nontax revenue target has also been enhanced to Rs11.8 billion from Rs6.5 billion.

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