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March 12, 2019

Punjab Assembly begins pre-budget debate

National

March 12, 2019

LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly began pre-budget debate on Monday as Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht reiterated his government’s resolve to address the problems and sense of deprivation among dwellers of southern Punjab.

He asked the assembly members to present their suggestions for improving the upcoming budget for fiscal year 2019-20.

Opposition leader in Punjab Assembly, Hamza Shahbaz, complained of victimisation of Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) leadership, saying declaring them thieves and robbers would not serve any purpose. He regretted that the PML-N leaders were prosecuted in Saaf Pani, Ashiana Housing and land development schemes but, with the grace of Allah Almighty, the Supreme Court vindicated them.

Hamza also expressed sorrow that the PTI government disregarded the decades long historic friendship with China and one minister suggested reviewing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), though the project is immensely beneficial for the country. He said the PML-N built three metro bus projects, while the one launched by the PTI in Peshawar was still incomplete.

The PML-N leader praised unprecedented unity shown by the nation in the face of Indian war threats. He reminded the house that PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had initiated country’s nuclear programme, and it was Mian Nawaz Sharif who conducted the nuclear tests in the face of Indian testing, and shrugged aside the pressure from the whole world in this regard. He lamented that the incumbent government reviewed and halted several development projects launched by the PML-N government including the Orange Line train in Lahore, and sought further loans from the IMF.

Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi took exception to Hamza’s claims and said had the PML-N government not scrapped all development schemes launched by the PML-Q, its leadership would have not faced such a situation currently. He reminded Hamza that Shahbaz Sharif had closed down 10,000 schools, set up by the PML-Q, to provide compulsory education up to Matric level, abolished police patrolling posts, shut down power generation projects, suspended the cardiology hospital in Multan and new building of Punjab Assembly. The speaker said the PML-N could have put up its own names on the inaugural plaques instead of abandoning those projects.

Finance minister said previous government left Rs 18 billion deficit for the coming government and had halted the appreciation of US dollar by artificial measures which razed to the ground once it left power. He said the PTI government resorted to IMF as the last resort after weighing all other options. Earlier, Speaker Pervaiz Elahi barred Education Minister Murad Rass from replying to an adjournment motion by an opposition member because the education secretary was not present in the house to aid the minister.

The speaker also adjourned the remaining adjournment motions pertaining to the Education department, after the minister told the chair that education secretary was not present. The speaker asked the minister if attending to routine meetings was more important than replying to House queries. He ruled that the matter was not concerned with the person of the speaker Punjab Assembly but a matter of upholding of sanctity of the august house.

The speaker also ordered switching off the microphone of Dr Murad Rass, which made him sit down in his chair angrily but without saying anything further.