PESHAWAR, June 22: Four legislators of Jamaat-i-Islami have boycotted the budget session of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly for indefinite period as Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) led coalition government is yet to complete its honeymoon period.
Opposition Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) member Munawar Khan advocate while taking the floor on Saturday drew attention of the chair towards “mysterious” absence of four lawmakers from the assembly who had been on boycott since Friday.
He said that those on boycott were protesting against the ministers for ignoring their constituencies in the annual development programme. The assembly held the session despite weekly off. Deputy Speaker Imtiaz Shahid Qureshi presided over the proceedings.
Munawar Khan said that Muzafar Said, Malak Behram Khan, Saeed Gul and Mohammad Ali of the JI were on strike and the opposition benches would support the cause of the protesting MPAs.
Minister for local government Inayat Ullah, of JI, whispered with senior minister Sirajul Haq and left the hall immediately to find out his annoyed colleagues. He searched lobbies and offices, but could not make contact with them.
Later Mr Inayat told Dawn that the MPAs had switched off their cell phones, but never expressed their grievances. Sources said that the protesting MPAs had differences with Mr Haq over allocation of funds in the new ADP. The bulk of the annual budget has been allocated to the development of only few constituencies, which included Nowshera, Swabi and Dir.
The sources said that like the JI, resentment was growing among the PTI members over the discriminatory treatment meted out to some districts.
The opposition also walked out of the assembly against what they described indifferent attitude of Speaker Asad Qaisar, who had been absent from budget session for the last three days.
Awami National Party parliamentary leader Sardar Hussain Babak said on a point of order that Mr Qaisar remained absent from the budget session and engaged himself in poll campaign of his brother for by-election. He said that the Speaker was not taking the assembly’s business seriously.
Mr Babak said that being custodian of the house the Speaker should be impartial. He said that the Speaker should quit his position as provincial PTI president. Later, the opposition members staged a token walkout. Ministers Sikandar Sherpao, Inayat Ullah and Shaukat Yousafzai went to the opposition leader’s chamber and brought the opposition MPAs back to the hall. Spokesman for the government Mr Yousafzai agreed with the opposition and assured that Mr Qaisar would relinquish the party office after consultation with the leadership.
The lawmakers from southern districts threatened that they would demand a separate province over the uneven allocation of funds. Similarly, the lawmakers from Kohistan also expressed resentment over the budgetary allocations and staged a walkout from the house.
“If the government doesn’t change its conduct then people of southern districts will demand a separate province,” warned Munawar Khan. He said that a few districts had been mentioned in the ADP where new roads would be constructed, while other districts had been excluded. Independent MPA Javid Akbar Khan said that underdeveloped areas had been ignored in the budget. He demanded construction of Chashma Right Bank Canal to irrigate thousands of acres barren lands in DI Khan and Tank districts.
JUI-F’s Mufti Said Janan said that the province received Rs27 billion royalty annually on account of gas explored in Hangu, Kohat and Karak, but these districts were not getting due share. He said that there was serious resentment among people of southern districts.
Maulana Asmatullah warned that Kohistan would become another Balochistan if the government continued its discriminatory policies. He said that Kohistan and Torghar districts had been ignored in the budget. He said that there was no college and hospital in these two districts.
The Maulana alleged that the finance minister had diverted funds to his hometown.
Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli and Meraj Hamayun Khan of Qaumi Watan Party expressed reservations over non-induction of females in the cabinet.
Meraj Hamayun said that 25 ministers, advisors and special assistants had been inducted in the cabinet, but only one female was made special assistant. She suggested that Dr Meher Taj Roghani of PTI, an experienced health expert, should be given a ministerial slot.