After more than two decades, the Sindh budget will be passed without any cut motions. These are mostly moved by opposition members to slash unnecessary expenditures in the upcoming budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22.
During the entire budget session, the opposition members seemed more interested in political point-scoring and protesting rather than debating over the budget. Their urgency could be gauged from the fact that none of them moved a single cut motion to slash non-development expenditures.
As the session kicked off with Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani in the chair, the house was told that no cut motions had been moved by opposition parties.
“As per the rules, we fix two days for cut motions before the budget is passed,” Durrani revealed. “Any member can move a motion, but unfortunately, no one has done so. The deadline has passed,” the speaker announced.
The announcement surprised many in the house. Opposition members from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) stood up to seek more time.
“We visited the assembly secretary’s office yesterday, but the staff informed us the deadline has passed,” said PTI parliamentary leader Bilal Ghaffar. “Please give us a chance so we can do submit them.”
Durrani, however, refused. “The time is now over,” he declared. “Please read the rules. You have missed the opportunity.”
Leader of the Opposition Haleem Adil Shaikh requested the speaker to give a last chance till Tuesday evening as all opposition members were willing to move cut motions. However, the speaker refused to entertain any such requests.
“You should have done it two days ago. I cannot accept now,” he said.
It was 1998 when PPP, being in the opposition, failed to move a cut motion. At the time, PML-N’s Liaquat Jatoi was Sindh chief minister.
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“It’s just a budget formality. No cut motion being moved by opposition parties has been accepted for the last many years,” said GDA MPA Nand Kumar Goklani. He regretted that the opposition missed the opportunity on this occasion.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Sindh Assembly Secretary GM Farooq Buriro said around 700 to 1,000 cut motions worth millions of rupees were usually moved by opposition members, asking for cuts in the non-development expenditure of the budget. These included purchase of vehicles, furniture, funds for maintenance, fuel and renovation of buildings etc.
“The usual practice is that treasury members don’t move any cut motion. Since opposition members are also reluctant, the budget will be passed without cut motions,” he said.
In the past years, opposition members move dozens of cut motions every year against funds kept aside for the chief minister’s helicopter, renovation of the CM or governor house, luxury vehicles for officials, and many other such expenses.
During the discussion on the budget, opposition parties continued their protest and staged a token walkout on five consecutive days.
Firdous Shamim Naqvi of PTI talked about the infant mortality rate in Sindh, which according to him is increasing as compared to other provinces of the country. “No change will take place until we utilise the budget properly,” he said.
The PTI MPA added that a budget is allocated every year, but its utilisation has been a great challenge in Sindh. He alleged most of the funds go into the pockets of the ruling elite.
“The CM says his government has earmarked Rs109 billion for Karachi, but there is nothing in the budget books,” Naqvi asserted. “It sounds like a mere announcement,” he stated.
He also slammed the Sindh government for not launching a rescue service and claimed people were being taken to hospitals on pushcarts or rickshaws. The MPA asked the chief minsiter to announce a provincial finance commission award, distributing funds to the districts on multiple criteria.
MQM parliamentary leader Kanwar Naveed Jameel also took to the floor and criticised the Sindh government for neglecting Karachi, Hyderabad and other urban areas of Sindh in the budget.
“Only the Liaquatabad area of Karachi generates more tax than the Lahore city of Punjab,” the MQM leader said. “Unfortunately, not a single scheme has been included in the budget for this area.”
Soon after his speech, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah stood up to request the MQM and other opposition members to be seated when and his ministers responded to the opposition.
Instead of giving a proper response, MQM lawmakers started protesting in the house and chanted slogans. Speaker Durrani tried to console MQM members, but failed and had to adjourn the session for ten minutes.
After a brief gap, the session resumed and the speaker gave the floor to PPP MPA Sajjid Jokhio. MQM parliamentarians protested again and held a sit-in before the speaker’s podium, holding placards in their hands.
The speaker adjourned the session till Thursday (today).
Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2021.
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