Marred by walkouts, K-P passes budget for fiscal year 2012-2013

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Budget

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly on Wednesday approved the budget for fiscal year 2012-13 even as the opposition benches remained vacant and the the lengthy session was marred by walkouts.

The assembly entertained cut motions for only 10 out of 59 demands for grants. When Speaker Kiramatullah Khan announced to approve the rest of demands without discussion, members of the opposition gathered around the Speaker, upon which the session was adjourned for 15 minutes. When the session resumed, the Speaker did not allow cut motions. On this the opposition walked out of the house in protest leaving treasury benches to their own whims.

The drama was not over yet though.

The government had to face further embarrassment when some members from the treasury benches followed the opposition members out Assembly to stage their own protest. At the start of session, female lawmakers from both treasury and opposition benches had stood up and asked to be allowed to speak at Awami National Party (ANP) law maker Yasmeen Zia’s maltreatment by the police. Zia told the house that her sons and their cousin were detained by University Town police before being tortured. The MPA said that when she and her husband arrived at police station to sort the matter out, they too were detained, while her husband was tortured. She demanded the house take notice of the incident and the maltreatment meted out. Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said that government has taken some remedial steps, such as launching an inquiry. Following which the aggrieved lawmaker did not bring the issue to the notice of the house. He said that police had allegedly provided CCTV footage of the incident to some television channels in order to strengthen their case. Hussain also voiced his displeasure at police conduct saying he was not satisfied with their treatment of the case.

Excise and Taxation Minister Liaqat Shahbab demanded that the concerned officials should be immediately put in lock up for the attack. If that could not be done, then all the ministers should resign. Opposition leader Akram Khan Durrani also called for exemplary punishment. Senior Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour in his speech announced that government will hold a judicial inquiry of this incident. However, this announcement was not well received by lawmakers from both sides of the house, as opposition members first staged a walkout and they were also followed by female members of the treasury benches. This led to an adjournment of stipulated for 15 minutes, but it extended up to an hour, during which ministers shuttled between the chambers of the Opposition Leader chamber and the female lawmakers.

When the session restarted, Bilour told the house that the SP allegedly responsible for leaking footage to the media was being relieved of his post and was being sent back to the federal government. He also announced to form a committee comprising members of all parties to investigate the incident and present its report within a week. However, these measures failed to bring an end to the resentment of the house, upon which Speaker Chagarmati ruled that the concerned officials’ services should be immediately returned to the federal government and a committee of parliamentary leaders should investigate this incident and present its report within two days. Following this episode Speaker announced the budget approved without cut motions; Opposition lawmakers though protested the decision. This time, the Speaker allowed lawmakers to speak on cut motions of a Rs913 million grant for the prison department, followed by motions on the police department.

However, after going through police department’s budget, the Speaker once again announced to approve the budget without taking cut motions on the rest of demands. This prompted the Opposition members to protest and when session re-started following adjournment, they staged a walkout. The treasury benches though proceeded to adopted the rest of demands within an hour’s time.

The session was adjourned till Thursday evening.

Interestingly, the topic of disqualification of prime minister, which the house had protested a day earlier, did not come up on the agenda. – Tribune