PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Tuesday approved three demands for grant valuing Rs6.52 billion for itself and administration and finance departments after rejecting two cut motions of the opposition members.

After winding up general discussion on the budget by finance minister Taimur Saleem Khan Jhagra on Monday evening, the lawmakers began debate on 60 demands for grant for various departments to defray the expenditure required during the financial year 2019-20.

Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani chaired the sitting.

Opposition flays CM for ‘ignoring’ its constituencies in uplift programme

Interestingly, the lawmakers will also debate and approve two demands for grant worth Rs162 billion, including Rs73 billion current expenditure and Rs83 billion ADP for the seven merged tribal districts currently having no representation in the assembly.

The demand for grant amounting to Rs344.598 million for the provincial assembly was approved without debate.

The opposition members opposed the demands for grant worth Rs3.925 billion and Rs2.25 billion for administration and finance departments, respectively.

The demands for grant for two departments were later put to vote.

The opposition members criticised Chief Minister Mahmood Khan for ‘ignoring their constituencies’ in the proposed Rs319 billion Annual Development Programme and his continuous absence from the house.

They also said the government had presented ‘few persons-specific budget’ instead of taking into consideration the need-based formula and that underdeveloped districts had been ignored in the ADP.

The opposition MPAs also hinted at challenging the proposed ADP in the court over ‘disparity’ in allocation of funds.

Significantly, some members of the Awami National Party and Pakistan Peoples Party showered praise on former chief minister Pervez Khattak for accommodating development schemes of the opposition during his five years tenure.

“Here I give the credit to Mr Khattak for taking care of the opposition in the ADP,” said ANP parliamentary leader Sardar Hussain Babak while speaking on his cut motion.

He said the districts, which generated more revenue than others, were ignored in the next budget.

Mr Babak said allocations should be based on needs of the districts.

ANP lawmaker Shagufta Malik resented delay in the release of funds for ongoing projects by the finance department.

PPP member Nighat Orakzai while speaking on her cut motion complained that some officers had occupied more than one residential quarter, while the chief minister had occupied three houses.

ANP MPA Salahuddin Mohmand flayed the alleged inequality in the allocation of development funds.

He said Rs283 million was allocated for several schemes in Hayatabad and Maira Kacchori areas of Peshawar but while his constituency, PK-71, had been ignored.

“My constituency used for slaughtering people during militancy is very underdeveloped but funds are released for schemes in Hayatabad, which has all civic facilities,” he said lamenting the policies and priorities of the government.

Contesting the government’s claim about increase in the ADP, the MPA said the total size of the new ADP was $5.7 billion compared to $5.5 billion in 2018-19 showing a meager increase of 0.2 per cent but ignoring the devaluation of Pakistani currency.

Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal MPA Inayatullah Khan asked the government to review the decision of increasing the age of retirement for its employees by three years.

He said retirement at the age of 63 would cause more unemployment among youths.

Responding to the opposition’s cut motions, finance minister Taimur Jhagra said the government’s focus was on the active management and system-needed reforms.

He said priority was being accorded to important schemes in social sector and that all areas would get due share in the budget.

The minister said the budget for merged districts had been increased from Rs55 billion to Rs162 billion.

He said the agriculture sector ignored for the last 10 years had got 60 percent more funds compared with the past’s.

The minister said agriculture, tourism, information technology and industries were the main sector having potential to generate revenue and jobs.

He urged lawmakers to promote the culture of payment of taxes among voters.

The minister said the government could increase the maximum age to applying for its jobs by three years.

The sitting was later adjourned until 10am on Wednesday (today).

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2019