The debate on the Rs43 billion 2014-2015 supplementary budget concluded at the Punjab Assembly on Thursday with the opposition terming it a theft of public money.
More than 20 members took part in the debate amid sloganeering by opposition over remarks against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan.
Initiating the debate, Mian Aslam Iqbal accused the government of incurring unnecessary expenses. He said discrimination against the people of southern Punjab had compelled them to demand a separate province. He said 1,600 posts of doctors and nurses were lying vacant in southern Punjab.
Iqbal demanded that the government order an audit of funds given to district governments. The speaker interrupted Iqbal when he expressed dismay over expenses incurred on the security of Jati Umra, the residence of the Sharifs. He staged a walkout in protest.
“Numbers have been manipulated in the supplementary budget…most lawmakers have no idea what is written in the budget books,” said Murad Raas. He said the government had made a mockery of people by providing substandard essentials items at Ramzan Bazaars.
Khadija Umar said doubling the Chief Minister Secretariat’s expenses had falsified the government’s claim about austerity measures. She said a commission should be formed for the audit of funds given to police as head money rewards.
She said Rs2.2 million had been spent on the renovation of toilets and kitchens of three Finance Department officers, Rs4.3 million on Murree House and Rs40 million had been spent on the entertainment of government guests.
Sibtain Khan called the supplementary budget theft of public money.
Vickas Hassan Mokal highlighted expenses under various heads, including Rs10 million spent on industries additional secretary’s 11 visits to China; Rs40 million spent on Women’s Day celebrations and Rs6 million paid to a private bank by the Sutlej Cotton Mill.
Sheikh Ijaz criticised the opposition. He said that last year when Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was visiting flood-hit areas, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak was dancing at a sit-in in Islamabad.
He demanded that Khattak resign over the violence during local government elections in KP.
Finance Minister Ayesha Ghaus Pasha said 43 per cent of the supplementary budget had been spent on flood relief activities. Defending the expenses incurred on the industries additional secretary’s visits to China, she said that efforts were needed to attract Chinese investment.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement
Mian Aslam Iqbal referred to a BBC’s report that alleges that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement has received funds from India.
“These are serious claims and should be debated in the assembly. The federal government should also take it seriously.”
He said reports of the Sindh Rangers, the Karachi corps commander and SSP Rao Anwaar should be examined. Opposition Leader Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed later told the media that the federal government should investigate claims made in the BBC report. Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the allegations against the MQM should be investigated. However, he said it would be inappropriate to impose restrictions on any political party.
The session was later adjourned until Friday (today).
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2015.