Benefitting from the opposition’s continued boycott of the budget session of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly, the treasury managed to unanimously pass the Finance Bill 2015, with a few amendments.
Parliamentarians of the treasury benches on Monday passed a total of 25 demands for grants for various departments including education, energy and power, Auqaf, local government, irrigation, public health engineering and roads.
The only opposition force, Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), showed little resistance and withdrew their cut motions upon the request of the relevant ministers and speaker.
The Finance Bill 2015 was passed with a few amendments brought by QWP’s Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli and Sikandar Khan Sherpao. Anisa raised objections over the increase in tax on immovable property via an amendment in the West Pakistan Immoveable Property Tax Act 1958. As per the original draft, the tax band in the locality factor—under which property tax is fixed—was raised from 12 to 13 for an A1 class property and from 9 to 10 for the A-Class category. Meanwhile, the tax band for B and D class properties was raised from seven to eight and three to six, respectively.
Anisa objected the B and C class properties were mostly owned by small-scale businessmen and suggested the tax band for these be kept at seven and four, respectively. Her suggestion was accepted by the house.
Another two amendments concerning a 15% tax on printing presses and retirement benefits of civil servants were also accepted by the house.
The session started an hour behind schedule and the first person who faced some resistance from opposition MPAs Bakht Baidar and Meraj Humayun was Minister for Auqaf Habibur Rehman. Baidar was not happy with Rehman’s performance as his ministry neglected the former’s constituency with regards to funds for the construction of boundary walls of cemeteries.
Humayun was not convinced by the ministry’s performance either, saying it was in charge of important matters such as Hajj and minorities. “The minister should explain his performance with regards to the preservation and renovation of churches and gurdwaras,” he said, conditioning her cut motion’s withdrawal to an explanation.
Rehman responded and said his role in Hajj was like that of a postman and he had no powers to make decisions.
Regarding Baidar’s funds issue, he said, “The previous year I had more funds and fewer applications and we gave money to everyone who applied. However, this year, there are 369 applications and less funds.” He added that was why many applications were pending and would be addressed in the next financial year.
Final resting place
Baidar who was flanked by Speaker Asad Qaiser, Minister for Local Government Inayatullah Khan, Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education Atif Khan and Minister for Finance Muzaffar Said – all called the shortage of cemeteries a “serious issue”.
Inayatullah suggested MPAs be allowed to use their funds to buy lands for graveyards and a amount should be allocated for this purpose in the next ADP.
No to the Metro
Baidar, through his cut motion—which was withdrawn later—asked Minister for Transport Shah Mohammad Khan for the reasons the K-P government rejected an offer from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to introduce the Metro Bus Service in K-P.
Minister for Labour Shah Farman, Inayatullah Khan and Chief Minister Pervez Khattak responded by saying the question was a political one. “If the prime minister is that generous, then K-P has more important issues than the metro bus. The premier should help the province in those issues,” said Farman.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2015.