PESHAWAR: Opposition members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Thursday demanded probe by a parliamentary committee into the Rs18.5 billion increase in the cost of the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit project.
They also questioned the fairness of the award of the project contract and insisted that the company executing the BRT had been blacklisted by the Punjab government.
The BRT project’s original cost was Rs49 billion, which went up to Rs68.5 billion after the start of work.
Threatens strong reaction if ignored for funds, schemes
During the assembly session chaired by Speaker Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani, leader of the opposition Akram Khan Durrani wondered why the PTI government was shying away from tasking a parliamentary committee with probing the BRT project’s cost escalation.
Mr Durrani, a former chief minister, initiated debate on the 2018-19 budget presented by the finance minister in the house on Monday.
He said the cost escalation had exposed the government’s poor planning for the bus project.
The opposition leader rejected the budget as deficit one and claimed that the government had showed ‘wrong and inflated’ revenue estimates in the budget documents.
He said majority of the funds had been allocated for the BRT and Billion Tree Tsunami afforestation projects with rest of the projects getting token allocations.
Mr Durrani welcomed the prime minister’s move to do away with discretionary funds but warned that there would be a strong reaction if the opposition was ignored for funds and schemes.
Inayatullah Khan of the opposition Jamaat-i-Islami said the government had declared the budget surplus as it expected to receive the Rs71 billion foreign assistance.
He wondered how the budget would be surplus if the government didn’t get the expected foreign assistance.
The lawmaker also said the figures of the Economic Survey of Pakistan and the provincial government’s were contradictory.
He asked the finance minister to reveal if the local governments’ Rs29 billion budgetary share would be released saying the local governments got only Rs52 billion out of the Rs102 billion allocations in the last three years.
PML-N parliamentary leader Sardar Aurangzeb Nalotha said the entire Hazara division had been ignored by the government during the distribution of development funds in the budget.
He asked if Hazara division wasn’t part of KP and said the government had discriminated against the region.
“All residents of KP have equal share in the province’s resources, so why were the development funds spent in few districts only?”
The PML-N leader called for the distribution of resources on the basis of ‘justice and vision’.
He also asked the government about the uniform education system it had been working on for six years.
Mr Nalotha wondered as the ruling PTI claimed at all forms that it had improved KP’s education sector, then how many lawmakers and government officers had enrolled their children in the government schools and insisted that no one did so.
He said the PTI government had failed to establish a single ‘model’ hospital with all necessary facilities for the visitors.
JUI-F lawmaker Ranjeet Singh said the government had been ignoring non-Muslims in the distribution of development schemes.
“This house has three non-Muslim members but we all have got meagre funds,” he complained.
Mr Singh said most non-Muslim students failed to secure scholarships for studies due to strict criteria.
The chair later adjourned the session until Friday (today).
Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2018