LAHORE: Opposition parties in the Punjab assembly have lashed out at the government, criticising it for presenting a deficit budget of Rs 26 billion and imposing a “Jagga tax” in the form of luxury house tax.
The Punjab assembly session started an hour late on Thursday. Debating the budget, opposition leader in the House, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Mehmood ur Rasheed said the PML-N government had not allocated funds for local bodies election in the budget 2013-14.“If the government is interested in holding these elections then it should have allocated funds for this purpose. The government should hold local bodies election on party basis,” he said.
Criticising the newly imposed luxury house tax, the PTI leader suggested that most of the people living in houses measuring over 2 Kanal were poor and had simply inherited the property.Talking about the law & order situation in the province, Mehmood ur Rasheed said that even though the Punjab government had allocated a huge budget for the police, crime was on the rise. He advised the Punjab government to establish ‘Mobile Courts’ in the province to provide justice at the doorstep “as was being done in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”
Commenting on the education budget, the PTI member said it was incredible that Punjab government was spending Rs 16,000 on each student of Danish Schools but added that only 15 paisas were being spent on an average public school student.“This is a failure of the education policy and is unjust. There should be a single standard for English, Urdu and Madrassa mediums,” said Mehmood ur Rasheed.He said the government had not allocated funds for minorities in the budget, which was unjust considering the large non-Muslim population.
He demanded a fivefold increase in livestock budget to provide dairy farm items to poor at low prices. He also declared the 10 percent salary increase of government employees insufficient and demanded a raise of 20 percent as well as setting the minimum wages of labour class to Rs 15,000.The PTI member also opposed extension of the Metro bus project and demanded the government not to launch this project on Multan Road in Lahore from Thokar to MAO College. He proposed the completion of under construction Lahore Ring Road projects and installation of railway track on the Lahore canal for better transportation in the city.
He also demanded the construction of MPA hostel and new assembly building.The opposition leader also protested against the allocation of Rs 93 billion of extra funds for Southern Punjab declaring it discrimination against Potohar (Northern Punjab) areas of the province. On the issue of Southern Punjab and the stance of opposition leader, the treasury member of PML-N Azma Bukhari said that it was a deliberate act of opposition to divide Punjab in three provinces and that is not acceptable.
Azma Bukhari proclaimed that her degree was not fake. In response, PML-Q’s Samina Khawar Hayyat teased Azma Bukhari, saying that her degree was also genuine but she was not the daughter of a lawyer who had fought Raymond Davis’ case. On this some harsh words also exchanged between treasury and the opposition benches.During the budget debate, treasury member Sheikh Ejaz, while starting his speech made an announcement that opposition leader was missing from the House. Samina Khawar Hayyat told the media after adjournment of the session that the treasury has opened the door of personal characterisation so now they will make announcement of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as a missing person from the assembly on a daily basis.
Samina Khawar Hayyat said that PML-N government should impose tax on Jati-Umara (residence of Sharif brothers).Interestingly, she criticised herself and other provincial assembly members, saying that while they had been riding expensive cars, the poor could not afford a basic meal and had to walk long distances.She also criticised increase in GST saying that after one percent increase in general sales tax, prices of every kitchen item had shot up.PTI’s Arif Abbasi said that government should not waste national exchequer on laptop, MBS and Danish School projects and should invest these funds on farmers by providing them fertilisers, seeds and water, if the PML-N was really sincere.
Dr Nosheen Hamid of PTI also criticised the laptop scheme of Punjab government and said that influence of laptop technology was negative in the society here so the government should shift the funds of this scheme to install IT Labs in the schools and colleges.Sadia Sohail of PTI claimed that there was a public school named Government Primary School Taxali Gate in the constituency of Hamza Shabaz Sharif which is established on an area of just one-and-a-half marla.“There was no park, no classes, water or other basic requirements and facilities of any school but no one was considering to upgrade such schools,” she said.
It is worth mentioning that Monis Elahi of PML-Q did not participate in the debate while Waqas Hasan Moakal, Ch Ghulam Murtaza of PML-Z, PTI’s Saddique Khan, Malik Taimur Masood, Raja Rashid Hafeez, PML-N’s Rana Arshad, Asif Bajwa, Qamar Islam Raja, Waheed Gul, Nazar Gondal, Abdur Razzaq Dhilloon, Zahoor Anwar, Adnan Fareed, Ashraf Insari, Taufiq Butt, Kashif Chishti, Abdur Rauf Mughal also addressed the House.Interestingly, Rana Arshad uttered the word ‘InshAllah’ 42 times in his speech, while talking about the efforts and agenda of PML-N and Mian Shahbaz Sharif.
Some PML-N members from minorities including Kanji Ram, Ramesh Singh Arora and Shehzad Munshi also addressed the house and declared the proposed budget as balanced.Later, the chair adjourned the debate till Friday to discuss the budget proposals. During the Thursday’s session, PTI tried to sabotage the budget session pointing out quorum but failed as treasury benches immediately recovered and completed required numbers of MPAs in the House.Members of the treasury criticised the PTI for trying to introduce a “Mummy-Daddy culture in Pakistan”.