PTI, PML-N deadlock puts question mark on Punjab’s new budget

With the province devoid of a cabinet, tussle over the governor slot has reached a boiling point

Muhammad Ilyas May 28, 2022
Punjab Assembly. PHOTO: EXPRESS


As the tug of war intensifies between the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), mud-slinging has become the norm; resultantly, the apparent constitutional crisis in the country’s most populous province is being conveniently ignored.

It has been nearly two months now that Punjab is devoid of a Cabinet and the politicians on both sides of the aisle are busy throwing the blame on each other as to who is responsible for the constitutional crisis in the province.

While it is yet to be seen who will win the political tug of war in the appointment of a new governor, the deadline for presenting a provincial budget is approaching fast and without a Cabinet a budget cannot be presented in the Punjab Assembly, as per Articles 22 and 23 of the Constitution.

The Express Tribune learned from sources privy to the matter that so far no meeting has been held nor have any guidelines been issued by the new government to the Punjab Finance Department and the Planning and Development Department with regards to the new budget. In the event that a budget is not presented, it would be difficult for the government to release funds for salaries, pensions, and development work for the next fiscal year, as per economist Dr Qais Aslam.

“If there will be no government policy, there will be no tax collection and investment policy in the next financial year. It is looking like it will be increasingly difficult to run the government for the new Chief Minister (CM),” Dr Aslam opined. The economist was of the view that perhaps it was time that the politicians put their personal interests on the backburner and devise a strategy in unison to avoid a financial crisis in the province that feeds the entire country.

PML-N leader and Member Provincial Assembly, Malik Ahmad Khan, said this unity was only possible if the PTI left its anti-people policy and let the new government do its work.

“Do they not realise that by delaying the appointment of a governor, they are delaying the formation of a Cabinet that will approve the budget and subsequently allow procurement of wheat and pay the salaries of government employees?” an irate Khan inquired. He was of the view that the PTI hierarchy needed to think about what their actions were doing to the people of the province.

Alia Hamza, PTI leader and former parliamentary secretary, disagreed, stating that the PML-N which had created the constitutional crisis were the ones who needed a rethink. “This looming financial crisis is also their fault, when this province already had a CM and a governor, why did they unconstitutionally appoint new ones?” she quipped. The PTI leader further said, “the Faletti’s Hotel CM Hamza Shahbaz, has illegally occupied the CM Office and we will see to it that he is removed.” When asked how this would be made possible, she answered that they had already approached the Lahore High Court in this regard.

As two of Punjab’s biggest parties are set to engage in another legal battle, The Express Tribune was informed by several well placed sources that despite the political crisis, the provincial bureaucracy had already started the budgeting as per routine. Another source disclosed that the new CM realises that the PML-N’s election hopes were pinned on providing relief to the masses through the budget and thus has instructed several members of the Punjab Assembly to informally work on the budget so that it could be presented promptly once the Cabinet is sworn in.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2022.



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