The Punjab Assembly on Wednesday discussed the supplementary budget worth Rs21.67 billion amid demands for the resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak by opposition and treasury benches. Finance Minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman concluded the discussion.
The assembly resumed the budget session at 11am.The house will present demands for 41 grants worth Rs21.67 billion under the supplementary budget on Thursday (today).
Rehman said the opposition benches had not presented noteworthy criticism of the budget even though they had hired a financial consultant for the purpose. He offered to ask the Finance Department and the Planning and Development Department to teach the opposition members how to read budget books. Instead of focusing on the supplementary budget, most of the opposition members discussed the annual budget for the coming fiscal year which the house had adopted on Tuesday.
However, some speeches by the opposition members stood out. MPA Malik Ahmed Khan Bhachar of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf discussed the utilisation of funds for agriculture. He said out of the 41 demands for grants under the supplementary budget which the house will pass on Thursday, not a single one dealt with agriculture. He said canals had been placed under the third schedule under which they were operational for 10 days and remained closed for 20 days. He said agriculture contributed 24 per cent to the GDP yet the allocation for it was only 1.4 per cent of the GDP. He said if supplementary budget included provision for agriculture, he would happily get it passed from the house.
He said in many areas in the province, people would have to walk up to 10 kilometres in 50-degree heat to get drinking water. He said he had raised the issue in the pre-budget session but the government had not allocated a single rupee to provide relief to these people. “While the government focuses on constructing bridges and Metro projects, people in Mianwali are dying due to lack of drinking water.”
He said several primary schools in Mianwali, Rajanpur, Layyah and Khushab districts did not have washrooms and most girls enrolled in primary schools there were over 10 years old. He said the schools needed proper washrooms and facilities.
MPA Ahsan Riaz Fatiana said the Rs21.67 billion supplementary grants reflected poor performance by the chief minister. Rehman said the supplementary budget last year was Rs82 billion and the budget this year was much lower. The supplementary budget for next year would shrink further.
Amid general discussion on the supplementary budget, Leader of the Opposition Mehmoodur Rashid asked the chair to allow the opposition to present a resolution. The resolution he read out stated that the house demanded the resignation of Shahbaz Sharif over the Model Town incident in which 12 people had died. He said an impartial and transparent inquiry was not possible under Sharif.
The speaker did not allow Rashid to move the resolution and the opposition protested and chanted slogans. Members of the treasury demanded the resignation of the KP chief minister over the PIA plane being shot at in Peshawar on Tuesday night.
MPA Rana Muhammad Arshad said If international flights stopped operating in Pakistan because of it, it could have lasting repercussions, he added. The speaker adjourned the session until Thursday.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2014.
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