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June 19, 2021

Balochistan Budget 2021-22: Assembly compound turns into war zone

QUETTA: Chaos ruled outside the Balochistan Assembly on Friday, as the police baton-charged scores of protesting opposition lawmakers and their supporters to open the assembly gates enabling the chief minister and treasury members to participate in the budget session.

The budget session was slated for 4pm but it commenced at least two hours behind the schedule, as the opposition MPs and their supporters had locked up the assembly gates preventing the administrative officials from opening the gates.

Speaker Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo chaired the budget session. Finance Minister Mir Zahoor Ahmad Buledi presented the budget. As Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan and a few lawmakers arrived at the assembly, the protesters hurled shoes and other objects at them.

While Deputy Commissioner Aurangzeb Badini and Opposition Leader Malik Sikandar Khan were busy negotiating, a police armoured personnel carrier (APC) crashed into the gate of the MPAs' hostel to clear the entry point.

The opposition members and their supporters put up a tough resistance but the police managed to clear the main gate, allowing the treasury lawmakers to enter the building. Opposition MPA Nasrullah Zehray accused the police of using violent methods to disperse the "peaceful protest" outside the assembly.

Sana Baloch MPA lashed out at the government, saying the province had been in its worst state since its inception. He said MPs Abdul Wahid Siddiqui, Shakeela Dahwar and Babar Rahim Mengal were injured by the police armoured vehicle.

Speaking to Geo News, Balochistan Information Minister Liaquat Shahwani said the clashes had proved how ill-disciplined and non-serious the opposition was.

"The assembly is a prestigious institution and they have attacked it. The same assembly whose members these people themselves are," he said. "They are doing this by design. They have proved they do not follow any democratic values and to protect their personal interests, they [the opposition] are ready to go to any length."

Shahwani said if the opposition were serious, they would have properly gone through the budget and given their suggestions. "Have you heard their proposals or demands?" he asked. "This is the best budget in Pakistan's history and will be presented today," he added.

He rejected reports that the chief minister had been hit by a flower pot, adding that the opposition supporters' act of hurling objects was "shameful". "After this, they will not be able to even take the name of democracy ever again," he added.

The supporters of opposition parties have been blocking the national highways in several cities of the province over the past four days. The opposition have accused the government of ignoring development projects in the budget.

The opposition lawmakers had warned they would not let the government present the budget on Friday. APP adds: The Balochistan government Friday unveiled its growth-oriented and pro-business budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2021-22, with a total outlay of Rs584.083 billion.

Presenting the third budget, Finance Minister, Mir Zahoor Ahmed Buledi said the total income for the upcoming year had been estimated at Rs499.36 bn, hence the budget deficit would be around Rs84.7 billion.

The minister also announced Rs237.221 billion development budget under Public Sector Development Programme including Rs16.661 billion Foreign Fund Projects Assistance (FPA).

He said under the development budget, Rs112.545 billion would be spent on about 1525 ongoing schemes whereas Rs76.651 billion had been earmarked for 2286 new projects. He said the outlay of non-developmental funds for the next fiscal year 2021-22 would be Rs346.861 billion.

Zahoor announced 15 percent Disparity Reduction Allowance (DRA) on basic pay which has been granted to all government employees of BPS-1 to BPS-19. The provincial government has issued 65 percent Anticipatory Pension, keeping in view the hardships of retired government employees. He said health was among the priorities of the provincial government, adding the government had allocated more than 56.57 billion rupees for the betterment of health sector.

The government has proposed to launch Balochistan Health Card with cost of Rs5.914 billion to provide up to one million rupees each to around 1.875 million families for their medical treatment. The minister also announced recruitment on around 5,854 posts. He said 500 million had been allocated for upgradation and development of irrigation system in the province.