PESHAWAR: The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly was not included under the ambit of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2015 when it was passed unopposed on Tuesday. As a result, no one can extract information about assembly proceedings under the new law.
Through an amendment presented in the house, Minister for Information Mushtaq Ghani left K-P Assembly from the purview of the act.
When contacted, the Assembly Secretariat told The Express Tribune the legislature is exempted from the RTI because it would conflict with the Privileges Act 1975, a separate legislation for lawmakers.
The amendments that were passed include placing a public information officer in every government department instead of information officers. The number of members of the Information Commission was also reduced to two from three. The third amendment gives the right to appeal the decision of the commission in the court of a district and session’s judge.
The assembly also passed two other bills and a supplementary budget of Rs26.390 billion.
Minister for Law and Parliamentary affairs Imtiaz Shahid Qureshi opened the session presenting Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Police Order Amendment Bill 2015 and The Establishment of Civil Mobile Court Bill 2015.
However, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Lissaail-e-Wal Mahroom Foundation Bill 2015 was the main bone of contention. Qaumi Watan Party members Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli and Meraj Humayun walked out over the bill which was presented and subsequently passed. This gave the treasury benches the opportunity to unanimously pass all the remaining bills as no amendments were proposed by the opposition.
The Lissaail-e-Wal Mahroom Foundation Bill 2015 drew the ire of opposition leaders. The new law calls for the establishment of Lissaail-e-Wal Mahroom Foundation, an organisation which can cater to the needs of people from underprivileged backgrounds.
When Adviser to the Chief Minister on Social Welfare Meher Taj Roghani presented the bill, the speaker insisted the bill should be passed as no amendments have been proposed by the opposition.
In response, Tahirkheli raised her objection, saying they could not propose any amendments because they had not been given sufficient time to read the bill. However, Qaiser ignored her remark and proceeded to pass the bill.
A matter of procedure
Earlier, Minister for Finance Muzaffar said presented the supplementary budget of Rs26.390 billion.
Tahirkheli voiced her reservations about the supplementary budget and termed it an “unhealthy, but constitutional trend which should be avoided.”
She said, “I can’t find any difference in the current and previous budgets. The expenditures are much higher than development funds in the current supplementary budget.”
According to the QWP leader, the government should make accurate calculations rather than rely on supplementary budgets.
In response to Tahirkheli’s objections, the finance minister said that as compared to the previous year, the budget volume has decreased. “We plan to control it further this year,” he said.
According to Said, unforeseen incidents such as the Army Public School attack resulted in some changes for the government’s estimates for expenditure.
The house also passed 53 supplementary demands for grants to various government departments without any cut motions being moved by the opposition benches. The police, health, education and population departments demanded billions of rupees worth of grants. Other departments — including labour, information technology and wildlife protection — made demands for grants which were as low as Rs50.
The speaker quipped with the Minister for Labour Shah Farman that he could have paid the Rs90 from his pocket rather than requesting it through a lengthy procedure.
The assembly session will convene on July 28.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2015.