The budget debate continued at the Punjab Assembly for the third day on Wednesday with opposition members once again criticising the government’s priorities.
Speaking on a point of order, Leader of the Opposition Mehmoodur Rasheed condemned police for manhandling 17 opposition members who were going to meet protesting clerks at Charing Cross.
Rasheed said Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Asif Mehmood had been injured in the scuffle.
Treasury members Tariq Gill and Waheed Gul opposed a privilege motion moved by Asif Mehmood demanding action against the policemen. The speaker reprimanded Gill and referred the motion to the privileges committee.
Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that government was holding talks with the protesting clerks. He proposed that a committee comprising opposition and treasury members be formed to review the frequent protest demonstrations on The Mall.
Several members complained about not being given the floor to speak on the budget. Treasury member Sheikh Alauddin staged a walkout over delay in being given the floor.
After PTI’s Mian Aslam Iqbal pointed out the quorum, the session resumed an hour later.
Iqbal said that the government had not revealed the current growth rate and the total amount of private investment in the province in the budget. He said last year’s allocation for special education had not been utilised. “This government can only think of using cement and steel. Will a poor man’s hunger be satisfied if he travels on a metro bus?” he asked. He also criticised the government’s failure to provide justice in the Model Town violence case. The remark triggered an uproar in the House.
PTI member from Mianwali Ahmed Khan Bhachar criticised the government for not providing development funds to opposition members.
Arif Abbasi opposed the transport tax, saying it would be a burden on the poor. “The opposition does not deny the importance of infrastructure projects. However, these should not be undertaken at the cost of basic needs. PML-N governments have always been interested in contracts and commissions,” he said.
PTI’s Sadia Sohail said the government had not provided missing facilities in all public schools. “More than 6,000 schools do not have drinking water and 3,000 are without boundary walls. Rs730 million is being spent on the CM’s house and his helicopters, but our farmers are getting no subsidy,” she said.
Shanila Ruth said the government was neglecting minority communities. “Of the Rs320 million allocated for minorities last year, only Rs20 million was utilised. The government should allocate 5 per cent of the development budget for minorities,” she said.
Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Tahir Khalil Sindhu said that Rs1 billion had been allocated for minorities.
PPP’s Sardar Shahabud Din said the government had failed to provide hepatitis vaccine and basic health facilities in Layyah. Sanaullah criticised former president Asif Ali Zardari’s statement about the army. “The language he used against security institutions should have been avoided,” he said. Referring to the protest by Pakistan Awami Tehreek workers, he said that it was time Tahirul Qadri moved toward the mainstream politics.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2015.
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