ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan landed in an awkward position on Tuesday when some legislators belonging to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) vehemently complained about non-provision of development funds and low-grade government jobs in their respective constituencies.
The legislators during a meeting of the party’s parliamentary committee held at the Parliament House urged the prime minister to frequently convene meetings of the committee so that issues confronting people could be addressed.
The meeting, presided over by the prime minister, was attended by a large number of ruling party legislators from the four provinces.
Law Minister Farogh Naseem briefed the meeting on services chiefs’ tenure bills and said that now 64 years would be the maximum age limit for chiefs of the army, navy, air force and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee.
A participant of the meeting told Dawn on condition of anonymity that at the outset the law minister expressed satisfaction over the support for the three bills by the main opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — and expected that the bills, which were passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday, would also sail through the Senate on Wednesday (today).
Fawad slated for opposing demand of MNAs; PM urged to frequently convene PTI parliamentary panel meetings
Later, some PTI leaders asked Prime Minister Khan that they needed development funds for their constituencies because whenever they visited their areas they were questioned by the people why no development activity was being done there. Others complained that although there was a big demand for jobs in the country and the government could not allow legislators to distribute the jobs which required proper procedures, at least they could be given quota for low-grade jobs which did not even require matriculation certificate.
At this, Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, who is said to be quite vocal in and outside the party, categorically rejected the demand for providing development funds directly to the MNAs and said the funds should instead be given to district authorities. “Once development funds are transferred to the provinces, MNAs have nothing to do with them,” he added.
The minister expressed concern over non-utilisation of uplift funds and said that out of over Rs350 billion allocated in the 2019-20 budget for development projects in Punjab, only Rs70bn had been spent so far. He suggested that development funds should be provided to the district authorities directly.
At this, PTI MNA Raja Riaz criticised Fawad Chaudhry and said that after receiving funds for some development schemes in his constituency, the minster was now advising the prime minister not to provide funds to the MNAs. “Recently Fawad Chaudhry Sahib has got funds for the Jalalpur Sharif-Jhelum canal project inaugurated by the prime minister last month,” Mr Riaz was quoted as saying.
Mr Chaudhry as then information minister had described as “historic decision” when the federal cabinet in August last year banned the use of discretionary funds of the president, prime minister and MNAs in view of the PTI government’s austerity drive.
The PTI government had lashed out at the last PML-N government for using Rs51bn discretionary funds in 2017 alone — Rs21bn by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Rs30bn by MNAs. Interestingly, the government had also announced that PM Khan would neither use the special plane provided to former prime ministers for foreign visits nor travel in first class. However, Prime Minister Khan had paid a number of foreign visits in special planes.
The PTI government had also barred the ministers from travelling in club class and announced that along with the prime minister, the president, foreign minister, Senate chairman and National Assembly speaker would no longer have the prerogative of flying first class.
Prime Minister Khan assured the MNAs that parliamentary committee meetings would be held on a regular basis to address public issues.
About development funds, the prime minister said the first year of the government was quite difficult as it had inherited a number of problems and poor economic conditions, but now the situation had stabilised and 2020 will be the year of progress and development in which people would get relief.
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2020