Lawmakers will continue the pre-budget discussion on Friday (today) after the House failed to wrap it up on Thursday. Most of the lawmakers scheduled to speak on Thursday were not present and the session commenced with only 14 members. Several lawmakers demanded development funds for their constituencies.
The minister for finance arrived at the Assembly late. MPAs Khawaja Muhammad Nizam-ul-Mehmood and Aamir Sultan Cheema took him to task for his absence when the discussion began.
They demanded to know who they were supposed to direct their proposals for the budget to. Labour Minister Raja Ashfaq Sarwar said that the proposals could be postponed till Friday. He also offered to note them himself. The argument was put to rest with the arrival of Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman.
Health and education featured as the priority subjects during Thursday’s session.
Nizamul Mehmood proposed that Dera Ghazi Khan, his constituency, be included in the government’s planned development projects. Taking up issues pertaining to Kasur, Malik Ahmad Saeed Khan said there was a lack of facilities – hospitals, high schools for boys and girls – which required priority budgetary allocations. Azra Sabir Khan demanded allocation for schools and recreational facilities, like parks, in Gujranwala. Tehseen Fawad from Rawalpindi among others put forward proposals for projects to ensure provision of safe drinking water.
MPAs also called for development of basic health facilities in Cholistan. Fauzia Ayub Qureshi and Mian Muhammad Aslam said though widely touted as the next tourist destination, Cholistan remained one of the most neglected areas in terms of development work. They identified safe drinking water, hospitals and schools as main areas which required immediate attention. Aslam also called for tax reform and said the budget should have provisions for farmers.
Attention was called to an incident regarding a recent attack on the house of MPA Rashida Yaqoob in Lahore which left two of her security guards critically injured. Yaqoob said her house was attacked by armed men on Tuesday evening and the firing lasted several minutes. She said the incident had left her family deeply shaken. She asked the Punjab government and the Chair to ensure her safety and security. Law Minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman said the government would cooperate with her in every way.
The question-hour was dominated by queries pertaining to construction and maintenance of roads addressed to the Communication and Works Department. Minister for Housing and Urban Development Tanveer Aslam Malik said the chief minister was working on a project to build and repair roads in rural areas. Regarding the progress of road construction, he said that C&W Department was an executing authority and did not deal with planning and budget allocation.
Responding to Sheikh Alaud Din’s query regarding the Niaz Beg flyover, the minister said the project cost Rs1.7 billion. Alaud Din pointed that independent project estimates had put the cost at Rs500 million. He said that the project was poorly planned and had resulted in poor management of traffic under the flyover. He said that he had tried to bring up the issue before the CM in 2008, but was asked to let the project be.
According to the C&W Department, the 2013 traffic survey indicated that the volume of traffic per day at the Niaz Beg Chowk was 125,078 vehicles, of which 54 per cent used the flyover. The Chair instructed the minister and lawmaker to discuss the matter further.
Alaud Din suggested that the Chair, as per rules, take action over telephonic calls of complaints that were put forward by lawmakers through the privilege motion. He said this would enable a swift course of action even when the House was not in session. Deputy Speaker Sardar Sher Ali Gorchani said that the Speaker was looking into the matter. The session will commence on Friday at 9am.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2015.
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