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KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly on Monday, the fourth day of general discussion on the Rs1.04 trillion budget for the financial year 2017-18, witnessed a token walkout by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement from the house when Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani switched off the mike of its lawmaker Dilawar Qureshi, who insisted on playing a video of water commission findings before the members, and asked him to sit down.

Addressing the lawmaker, the chair said that he was not given time to speak on the Supreme Court but on the budget. On the closure of the mike and giving the floor to Dr Sikander Shoro of the PPP, MQM legislators rising from their seats created rumpus in the house and staged a walkout. The speaker said he could not follow their dictation. “I have always given time to the opposition but it does not mean they start dictating to me. Mr Qureshi was asked to speak on the budget [but] he started hurling accusations.”

After some time when the MQM returned to the house Dr Sikander Shoro was on his feet. Leader of the Opposition Khawaja Izharul Hasan said that Dilawar Qureshi needed not to talk against the chair and asked him to extend an apology and speak on the budget.

Budget discussion extended for another day

Earlier amidst discussion on the budget, the house by a motion increased one day more for general discussion and submitting cut motions on the annual budget statement till the next day. This suggestion was made by Mr Hasan and was backed by Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.

After adoption of the motion tabled by PPP parliamentary party leader and Senior Minister Nisar Ahmad Khuhro, the general discussion on the budget would continue till Wednesday, the sixth day.

Earlier on Monday, when the house reassembled at 11.50am after one-day break, a discussion was initiated by PPP lawmaker Sharmila Farooqi and by 5pm when the chair called it a day to meet on Tuesday at 11am, a total of 18 legislators across the aisle could make it. Of them, 10 lawmakers were from the PPP, four belonged to the MQM and two each from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. Naheed Begum, Raana Ansar, Dilawar Qureshi and Zubair Ahmad from the MQM, Khurram Sherzaman and Dr Seema Zia from the PTI and Aijaz Shah Sherazi and Haji Shafi Jamote from the PML-N; while Sharmila Faruqi, Sardar Ghaibi Khan Chandio, Dr Sikander Shoro, Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani, Manzoor Hussain Wasan, Murtaza Baloch, Syed Zia Abbas, Taimoor Talpur, Bahadur Daheri and Rubina Qaimkhani from the PPP participated in the discussion.

Mr Qureshi said the budget was not a rational one while referring to some contradictions in the government approach. He said in the budget minimum monthly wage had been fixed at Rs15,000 though this amount was not enough for monthly expenses of even a small family. Yet the government itself was not complying with this, he said, while citing the examples of Hyderabad Development Authority and Wasa where the monthly salary of hundreds of workers was around Rs6,000 only.

Raana Ansar said there was no scheme for Karachi and Hyderabad in the new budget. Even the scheme for setting up a university in the public sector was not included in the budget, the lawmaker added.

Mr Sherzaman said the Sindh budget appeared as the budget of election year 2018. The PPP government was increasing the budget of every department for the past nine years but nothing had changed on ground. Even clean drinking water was not available to the people of Sindh, he added.

He said unlike the government claims that it was a tax-free budget, the government imposed Rs172.7 million indirect taxes.

Dr Seema Zia said that in the current development budget Rs4 billion was not spent and there were still nine schemes pending completion for the past nine years.

Ms Farooqi said that the Sindh government was paying Rs4bn every year to the KMC and a monthly special grant of Rs500m to meet its expenses.

Manzoor Wassan said the new budget was people-friendly in which Karachi was given a special package of Rs70bn while Rs30bn grant was allocated for the KMC. He said the PML-F and the MQM themselves had been involved in “corruption and rigging” but they accused others of it.

Dr Shoro held the MQM responsible for creating bad conditions in the metropolis but said the situation had finally been changed. He said the PTI was still waiting for a signal from the “umpire” as Imran Khan’s party had supported the former military dictator, Pervez Musharraf.

Mr Bijarani praised the chief minister for presenting a people-friendly budget and said that 27 per cent allocation was increased in the provincial and district annual development programmes whose positive impact would be visible. Agriculture was the backbone of the economy and the Rs563m allocated for solar pumps and tube well subsidy augured well for development in the agriculture sector, he added.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2017