Opposition members stage a protest sit-in outside the CM secretariat, Peshawar, on Tuesday. — White Star
Opposition members stage a protest sit-in outside the CM secretariat, Peshawar, on Tuesday. — White Star

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government broke deadlock with the joint opposition over the allocation of funds for development schemes after the latter staged a sit-in outside the Chief Minister’s secretariat here on Tuesday.

Lawmakers of the four opposition parties, including their parliamentary leaders, called off the protest following a marathon meeting with Chief Minister Mahmood Khan.

Both sides agreed that a nine-member committee consisting of government and opposition representatives would look into the matter.

Awami National Party MPA Sardar Hussain Babak told reporters that the chief minister assured the opposition of an equitable allocation of development funds.

Opposition MPAs call off protest after marathon meeting with CM

Earlier, the opposition MPAs set up protest camp in front of the CM secretariat. Before proceeding to the CM secretariat, ministers Sultan Mohammad Khan and Akbar Ayub approached the opposition to cancel the protest camp plans and offered to resolve the issue by dialogue. However, the offer was turned down.

Male and female MPAs of the opposition parties occupied the green belt opposite the CM secretariat.

Sardar Hussain Babak announced that the opposition would put up a protest camp from 12pm to 6pm on a daily basis until the meeting of their demands by the government.

The assembly’s Public Accounts Committee’s meeting slated to be held on Tuesday was also cancelled due to the opposition’s protest.

Later, ministers Qalandar Khan Lodhi, Sultan Mohammad Khan, Akbar Ayub and Shaukat Ali Yousafzai visited the protest camp.

After a brief meeting, they took the protesting MPAs to the CM’s secretariat, where they met CM Mahmood Khan.

The opposition later announced that it had called off the protest.

Accompanied by information minister Shaukat Yousafzai, Mr Babak told reporters that the first meeting of the committee would take place in the assembly’s secretariat on Thursday. He said the meeting of the opposition members with the CM was fruitful as they were promised an equitable allocation of development funds.

He said the government had also promised that important bills would be tabled in the assembly after holding consultation with the opposition.

Minister Shaukat Yousafzai told reporters that the government would address the grievances of the opposition regarding the allocation of development funds.

The allocation of development funds has become a bone of contention between the government and joint opposition with the latter complaining that funds have been earmarked for the constituencies belonging to the ruling party MPAs.

Opposition Leader Akram Khan Durrani and more than 30 MPAs had filed petition in the Peshawar High Court against the ‘unjust’ allocation of development funds by the chief minister in the 2018-19 budget, especially in the umbrella schemes reflected as ‘block allocation.’

The court in the Sept 26 detailed judgment on the petition had directed the provincial government to formulate rules for the allocation of development schemes within seven days and restricted the release of all development funds until then.

The opposition alleged that the government did not implement the court’s orders.

The protesting MPAs said the government’s ‘antagonistic’ attitude forced the opposition to take extreme steps to protect the rights of the people.

“Over seven million people voted for the opposition MPAs in the last general elections and we will not allow the ruling party to usurp rights of voters,” Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal MPA Inayatullah Khan said at the protest camp.

He said the opposition for the first time in the history of the province had set up a protest camp in front of the CM’s secretariat.

The MMA member said the government was misusing its majority in the house and passed important bills without discussion.

“We reject the fraud legislation and will not let the government bulldoze parliamentary traditions,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2019