KP govt, opposition at loggerheads over afforestation project probe body

Updated July 13, 2019


Minister says KP Assembly panel should be re-notified as Durrani seeks visits to plantation sites. — Thomson Reuters Foundation/File
Minister says KP Assembly panel should be re-notified as Durrani seeks visits to plantation sites. — Thomson Reuters Foundation/File

PESHAWAR: The treasury and opposition parties in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly have locked horns over the constitution of a special committee to probe the alleged corruption and anomalies in the multibillion rupees afforestation project in the province.

Speaking on a point of order on Friday, opposition leader Akram Khan Durrani drew the attention of Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani towards the dysfunctional committee, which was earlier formed to probe the alleged corrupt practices and irregularity in the Billion Tree Tsunami, a flagship project of the previous PTI government.

He said the opposition MPAs had withdrawn their resignations from the house’s standing committees and therefore, the special committee tasked with looking into the plantation programme’s matters, should become functional.

The opposition leader asked the chair to announce the schedule for the committee’s visit to tree plantation sites.

He said the opposition had sufficient material to prove irregularities in the project.

The government had claimed that over one billion trees were planted in the province during last five years.

Minister says PA panel should be re-notified as Durrani seeks visits to plantation sites

Information minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai, who was the chairman of the committee, termed investigations into the project a waste of time and resources.

He said the committee was bound to complete investigations in one month but that didn’t happen after the opposition MPAs resigned from the house’s committees, including the one in question.

Mr Yousafzai said the chair would have to re-notify the committee for its operation.

Food minister Qalandar Khan Lodhi, who is the chief whip of the ruling PTI, and health minister Hisham Inamullah Khan failed to satisfy lawmakers.

Minister Hisham said political governments failed to develop the capacity of civil administration to carry out reconstruction activities in militancy-affected areas.

He said the Pakistan Army did a good job in tribal districts.

Speaker Mushtaq Ghani said the government took such steps on the need basis, so the forum was set up.

The chair asked the MPA to submit his question under Rule 48 of the assembly’s Procedure and Conduct of Business Rules, 1988, to be admitted for detailed discussion.

The planning and development department through a written reply informed the house that the federal government had released Rs26.596 billion for the permanent reconstruction of infrastructure in merged districts.

The official reply said the memorandum of understanding was signed between civil secretariat for defunct Fata and secretariat for temporarily dislocated persons for transferring funds from federal government to the TDP Secretariat.

It added that the forum was re-organised in 2019, while senior officials of finance, planning and development and provincial chief engineer were designated its members.

The corps commander of Peshawar has been made the forum’s chairman.

A question of ANP MPA Shagufta Malik regarding officers, who were working on more than one senior position, was referred to the standing committee on administration.

The official reply revealed that 11 posts of BPS-21, 44 of BPS-20, 55 of BPS-19 and 60 of BPS-18 of the Pakistan Administrative Service had been lying vacant in the province and therefore, some officials had working on more than one position.

Two questions moved by Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Nighat Yasmin Orakzai regarding the defunct KP Ehtesab Commission were deferred.

Health minister Hisham Inam informed the house that the department had issued posting and transfer orders for 1,000 doctors.

He said the doctors did not want to be transferred from big cities to remote areas.

The minister said the doctors had refused to accept new posts in far-flung areas and thus, causing shortage.

He said the posting and transfer issue was politicised and that many MPAs supported demand of doctors.

The minister said negotiations were under way to find a solution to the issue.

Speaking on a point of order, PPP MPA Nighat Orakzai demanded resignation of railway minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad over the Sadiqabad train accident.

She said 79 accidents had occurred during the last few months, so the railway minister had no justification to keep the portfolio and that the prime minister should ask him to resign.

Two privilege motions moved by MPAs Shagufta Malik of the ANP and Abdul Salam of the PTI against the local government secretary and KP tourism corporation managing director respectively were referred to the relevant committees.

The assembly didn’t take up its legislative business and five private members’ resolutions appearing on the agenda due to the shortage of time. The chair adjourned the sitting until July 15.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2019