Lawmakers identified education, health, agriculture and rural development sectors on Wednesday as those requiring major allocations.
At the pre-budget session, chaired by Deputy Speaker Sardar Sher Ali Gorchani, the issue of raising salaries of assembly staff and lawmakers also came under discussion.
Ministers for law, labour and human resource development, zakat and ushr, cooperatives, human rights and minority affairs, women development, home affairs and special education were present at the session. On Tuesday, the deputy speaker had taken notice of their absence.
Referring to Parho Punjab, Barho Punjab initiative, Mian Rafiq said that the project’s goals would likely remain unfulfilled in an under-staffed education system. “Unless you have a teacher in every classroom, things will not improve,” he said.
Ilyas Chinioti called for addressing missing facilities and ensuring security at all schools. Waris Shah Kallu said the government had stopped opening new primary schools.
Asif Bajwa and Manazir Hussain Ranjha called for more investment in the health sector to upgrade hospital facilities.
Javed Akhtar said that the government needed to shift its budgetary focus to rural areas.
Tariq Mehmood, Ehsan Riaz Fatyana and Vickas Hassan Mokal spoke on the issue of lawmakers’ salary raising. Law and Finance Minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman said that opinion had been sought from the Law Department on the issue of raising salaries of assembly staff. “The government is likely to move a bill in the next session to raise the salaries of lawmakers,” he said.
Opposition member Faiza Malik questioned the utility of a pre-budget session in April.
She also raised the issue of delay in the report on amending rules of business. She said the timing of the session had been changed. Gorchani said the decision was taken owing to security concerns.
Home Minister Col (retd) Shuja Khanzada said that the NADRA could not issue new weapons licenses as it was working on verifying older ones.
Later, talking to reporters, Khanzada said that the registration of seminaries continued in the province and so far, 13,729 seminaries had been registered through geo-tagging by the Punjab Information Technology Board.
“Recommendations have been formulated for bringing all seminaries under the administrative control of the Education Department and ensuring enforcement of rules with regard to their academic activities,” he said.
He said that only a few seminaries were involved in illegal activities. “Evidence is being collected against them for initiating prosecution. Several other non-government organisations (NGOs) are also engaged in unlawful activities,” Khanzada said.
He said that the country faced more internal threats than external. “There is a need for unity to counter these challenges. There are 498 foreign students in the Punjab whose visas have expired. Funds have been provided to send them back to their home countries,” he said.
The session will resume at 10am on Thursday (today).
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2015.