PTI founder’s photo disrupts PA

Opposition leader opens debate on Punjab budget

Rana Yasif March 22, 2024
A file photo of Punjab Assembly in session. PHOTO: ONLINE


The lawmakers from the treasury benches briefly ‘boycotted’ the Punjab Assembly proceedings on Thursday after a picture of PTI’s founding chairman Imran Khan was placed on the desk of the opposition leader temporarily nominated by the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC).

Opposition Leader Ahmad Khan Bhachar was to open the general discussion on the budget for 2023-4 presented by the provincial government.

However, the treasury and opposition lawmakers came at loggerheads over the picture as the PML-N members called for its removal, while the SIC legislators said no one could dare to touch it.

After a long spell of sloganeering against each other and exchange of fiery arguments, PML-N MPA Malik Muhammad Waheed Khan said he and other members of his party would walk out of the session if the SIC members would not remove the picture.

PML-N MPA Sami Ullah Khan tried to pacify the situation but Food Minister Bilal Yaseen signaled Waheed Khan to walk out, following the treasury members left the house.

Deputy Speaker Zaheer Iqbal Channar adjourned the house proceedings for 10 minutes after the walkout.

As the session resumed, Finance Minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman clarified that no one from the government had walked out of the house.

Starting the budget debate, Opposition Leader Bhachar questioned its credibility and termed it anti-people.

He said the government had no mandate to present the budget of over four months of the preceding caretaker government.

He said no attention had been given to education in remote areas. He said the allocation of a meagre amount of Rs57 billion for primary education was tantamount to making a mockery of the sector. The amount should be spent on the schools in remote areas, he stressed.

The opposition leader lamented that only Rs200 million had been allocated for skill development of the youth who number 700 million in the province. Thus the amount comes down to Rs2.75 for every youth.

He said the government had decided to establish a cancer hospital with a meagre amount of Rs440 million, which meant that it was not serious in completing the project even in 10 years.

He also lambasted the government upon earmarking Rs440 million for an air ambulance service. There was no ambulance available even at district and tehsil hospitals but the government was claiming of launching air ambulance, he added.

He said various sections of the society were deprived of their basic rights of education, health and infrastructure, but the government claimed to have presented people-friendly budget.

The opposition leader alleged that the Ramazan package was confined to social media.

“The deserving masses are being disgraced and their dignity is being compromised through cameras and pictures,” he alleged.

He said that government had claimed that it would supply 300 electricity units free to the people but had instead allocated billions of rupees for the houses to its leaders.

Regarding the allocation of Rs1 billion for the welfare of journalists, he said they needed freedom of expression and an independent atmosphere wherein no one of them could be killed like senior journalist Arshad Sharif.

The opposition leader said flawed official policies had affected agricultural growth.

Several members from the PML-N and SIC participated in the discussion but most speakers from the ruling parties focused on political speeches rather than responding to the criticism on the budget.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2024.


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