The Opposition bench in Punjab Assembly on Tuesday staged a brief token walkout after PML-Q Khadija Umar’s speech was interrupted by spokesman for the Punjab government Zaeem Qadri and other treasury bench members.
Khadija Umar had remarked in her speech that former chief minister Pervaiz Elahi government had contributed more towards the province’s development. She was not allowed to continue her speech after her allotted time had lapsed by the Speaker and this led to opposition members leaving the House in protest.
After returning to the House, the PML-Q MPA was given permission by the Speaker to continue her speech. Khadija Umar claimed that under Pervaiz Elahi, the Annual Development Budget had a utilisation of 93 percent and more money was allocated for public welfare initiatives, including Rescue 1122 emergency service.
The PML-Q MPA said under Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif funds for health and education were instead being re-appropriated for Orange Line Metro Train. She criticised the recent statement of Federal Minister Ishaq Dar and said cheap food items should be the top priority of both the governments.
PML-N MPA Khalid Ghani Chaudhry meanwhile criticised the Punjab government for not releasing funds for Jhang University even after the bill had been passed in Punjab Assembly last year. His counterpart PML-N MPA from Layyah Sheikh Allauddin pointed out that the standing committee on finance had no contribution towards devising the budget along with other committees.
He complained that the government was levying taxes without consulting stakeholders, including businessmen who were feeling oppressed under the 19 percent Government Sales Tax (GST) and 16 percent services tax. He recommended that funds allocated for Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) be used towards providing people in low income areas with 50 percent subsidy on purchase of food items and mobile grocery shops be established instead of sasta bazaars. The PML-N MPA also called for funds to be kept in the Annual Budget 2016-17 for employment and financial well-being of the marginalised transgender community.
JI MPA from Bahawalpur Dr Syed Waseem Akhtar criticised the government for not prioritising his district in the Annual Budget 2016-17 and urged them to reconsider reinstating Bahawalpur as a separate province.
He claimed that no funds had been allocated for youths employment in the area and that outsiders were being employed in Bahawalpur Solar Power Park instead of locals. He also called for the federal government to make a decision over Kalabagh Dam as the problem of water shortage was at its peak. PTI MPA Dr Murad Rass brought a bottle of dirty water to the Assembly and claimed that this was drinking water from the Gulberg area of his constituency. Rass dismissed grand claims of the Punjab government that the Saaf Paani Project was working to eliminate contaminated water in the province and demanded that a proper sewerage system be built from Jail Road to Ferozepur Road.
He also called for more space for graveyards and opposition members to be included in district development committees. PML-N MPA from Sialkot Zulfiqar Ghouri also criticised the government for not utilising all of the funds allocated for the Minorities Affairs department and said the quota in government jobs for minorities should be increased from 5 to 10 percent. PML-N MPA Ramesh Singh Arora meanwhile called for funds to be set aside for rehabilitation of Sikh culture in Punjab. PTI MPA Shunila Ruth said it was a matter of disappointment that Christians and others could not become prime minister and hold other top leadership positions as per the Constitution of Pakistan. Ruth informed that areas occupied by minorities usually did not have dispensaries, hospitals, colleges, and other important infrastructure. She called for the amount of Christmas fund be increased to Rs10,000 instead of Rs5,000 and scholarships for minority students be increased too. Her counterpart PTI MPA Asif Mahmood demanded that funds for a boys’ college in Rawalpindi be released as it was badly needed by his constituents.
The House will resume today (Wednesday).