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June 24, 2021

Debate on budget continues amid war of words in KP Assembly

PESHAWAR: The war of words between the treasury and opposition members continued as debate on the budget continued in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly for the third consecutive day on Wednesday amid a walkout by the lawmakers over the Janikhel firing incident.

Taking part in the debate, the opposition lawmakers termed the budget a flawed document while the treasury claimed it was an ideal and historic one offering sufficient incentives to the public.

Earlier, the joint opposition staged a walkout from the House to protest against police lathi-charge and alleged shelling on protesters of Janikhel in Bannu district. Just after recitation from the Holy Quran, Sardar Hussain Babak of the Awami National Party (ANP) on a point of order raised the issue and said the opposition was staging a peaceful walkout to register protest over the Janikhel incident.

He said the protesters had staged a sit-in for the last 24 days but nobody from the government bothered to listen to their grievances.

When the opposition legislators walked out from the House, the Minister for Local Governments Akbar Ayub and fellow PTI lawmaker Khalid Khan brought them back.

Sardar Hussain Babak said there were reports that recruitment of ‘good Taliban’ is going on openly in Waziristan. He pointed out that the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), North Waziristan chapter wrote a letter on June 22, warning women working in government or non-governmental organisations to refrain from such service or duty or else face the consequences.

He alleged it was the establishment’s policy as only Pakhtuns are being targetted whether it was polio vaccination or other matters. The ANP was targetted and its leaders including parliamentarians were martyred because it stood with the Pakhtun nation, he added. He said a youth was martyred and a video went viral showing that police were setting on fire their vehicle themselves to blame the Janikhel protesters who were trying to proceed towards Islamabad to voice their grievances. He said the Taliban were regrouping in the tribal districts through a well-hatched conspiracy.

Inayatullah Khan of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) said the issue raised by Sardar Hussain Babak was of vital importance. The government and law-enforcing agencies should resolve the matter through negotiations with the protesters before they march towards Islamabad, he suggested.

ANP’s Khushdil Khan said the administration should hold an in-camera briefing on the situation and inform the lawmakers about the actual situation in Janikhel and elsewhere.

Minister for Labour and Culture Shaukat Yousafzai in his reply said the Janikhel incident was unfortunate but it was reported that some people had tried to take law into their own hands. “There were sit-ins on three points and the protesters at one point clashed with the police. The protesters should not do politics on dead bodies and solve the matter through meaningful dialogue,” he argued.

He said the chief minister has announced a Rs1 billion development package for Janikhel area. He added the opposition should help in maintaining peace to save the province from the situation when bomb blasts and terrorist attacks occurred on a daily basis.

Later speaking on the provincial budget, Ahmad Kundi of PPP said it was based on five pillars, i.e net hydel profit, oil, gas, water share and tobacco cess, but the PTI government had failed to get its due share. He said only the net hydel profit of three years stood at Rs576 billion, but the province has not received more than Rs20 to 30 billion. “Despite the fact that PTI is in power in the centre and in the province, KP has not been given its share in federal excise duty on oil and gas,” he said, adding, KP was producing oil worth Rs300 billion but its share was yet to be decided and released. On tobacco cess, Rs120 billion had been collected but what was provided to the province, he posed a question.

He said the provincial government had failed to plead its case and get KP’s rights.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmakers Sobia Shahid and Sardar Khan, ANP’s Shakil Bashir Umarzai, Faisal Zaib, Salahuddin Momand and Shahida also spoke on the budget and termed it jugglery of words having nothing for the public. They claimed that the PTI government had failed to get its dues of Rs600 billions of water and Rs650 billions of its share from net hydel profits.

Shoaib Khan of JUI-F said the finance minister had termed the budget as ideal and historic but last year too he had made the same claim but only Rs54 billion were allocated for newly merged districts of which only Rs24 billion could be released.

Former law minister Sultan Muhammad Khan lauded the opposition’s role on the occasion of budget speech and also of the chief minister and speaker for keeping the environment in the assembly cordial. However, he said pre-budget sessions should be arranged. He said the federal budget has an impact on the provincial budget and if KP’s share in the PSDP as reported has been reduced then it should be taken up with the federal government.

He said the National Finance Commission (NFC) award should also be announced so that the province gets its due share according to increase in its population. The federal government, he said, should also release the province’s dues on account of net hydel profits. “The raise in government employees’ salaries is a good decision as there was no increase last year. There should also be an increase in the salaries of the assembly secretariat employees as well of lawmakers,” he maintained.

Minister for Agriculture Mohibullah Khan said health, education, tourism, agriculture and environment remained priorities of Prime Minister Imran Khan and the PTI government had done a lot in these sectors of which people were the witness. He added that the Chashma Right Bank Lift Canal (CRBLC) is in the pipeline to be executed under CPEC.

PTI Aasia Khattak, Khalid Khan, Abdul Salam Afridi, Sumera Shams, Abdul Karim, Zubair Khan and Wilson Wazir and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP)’s Shafiq Sher Afridi and Baseerat Bibi and independent member Ehtisham Javed also spoke during the proceedings and defended the budget as an ideal one.