PESHAWAR: Members of opposition parties in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly postponed their protest against the government for 10 days after a meeting with Chief Minister Mahmood Khan at the CM House here on Thursday.

The MPAs had set up a protest camp outside the Chief Minister’s House for the three consecutive days, where leaders of different political parties expressed support for the protesters, who demanded the provision of development funds and non-interference of the National Assembly members in their constituencies.

However, the protest was called off on Thursday evening after a meeting with Chief Minister Mahmood Khan in his office.

An announcement for the purpose was made during a news conference jointly addressed by Awami National Party parliamentary leader in the provincial assembly Sardar Hussain Babak and labour minister Shaukat Yousufzai at the protest camp set by opposition MPAs outside the CM House.

Govt promises to address their grievances on funds distribution

The opposition MPAs, who held negotiations with the chief minister, included Sardar Hussain Babak, Nighat Orakzai, Mahmood Bhittani, Mir Kalam Wazir and Inayatullah Khan, while the ministers, who were present on the occasion, included Shaukat Yousafzai, Kamran Bangash, Taimur Khan Jhagra, Sultan Mohammad Khan and Akbar Ayub.

Mr Babak said the government had assured the opposition of the resolution of their grievances within 10 days.

“We welcomed the [government’s] gesture and postponed the protest,” he said.

The ANP leader said the protest was mainly against the attitude of MNAs, who used to interfere in affairs of the province unnecessarily instead of focusing on their duties in the centre.

He said the protest was the people’s democratic right and they would continue doing so if the government failed to fulfil its commitment towards their demands.

“The MNAs should avoid interference in the provincial issues and raise voice in the national assembly for due provinicial share in national resources, including natural gas, electricity and net hydel power, to strengthen the provincial financial resources,” he said.

He said during talks, the government had promised the meeting of all opposition demands pertaining to the release of development funds and the meetings of opposition members with the chief minister to inform him about the people’s problems of their respective constituencies.

Minister Shaukat Yousufzai appreciated the opposition for calling off the protest and said the government was committed to providing sufficient funds to every district to remove the people’s grievances and meet their demands.

“Our government wants to build educational institutions, health centres and roads and create job opportunities for which the opposition will be taken into confidence,” he said.

The minister said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had a specific culture of dialogue and both the government and opposition would maintain a close liaison for the healthy political environment.

Earlier in the day, the opposition lawmakers, during their speeches, criticised the government for ‘constantly ignoring’ them on development funds and appointment of Class-IV employees in government departments.

They said the government had promised to award 35 per cent of its development funds to the opposition during their meeting with the government on the distribution of development funds, but it failed to fulfil its commitment.

The MPAs pointed out that the provincial government had been utilising its funds through members of the National Assembly (MNAs) in violation of the Constitution.

ANP central General Secretary Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz provincial president Amir Muqam and ANP central leader Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour also visited the protest camp and spoke in support of the protesting lawmakers.

They asked the government to take the opposition along for the start of the development schemes in different districts and resolve the people’s problems.

The opposition leaders also condemned the recent patient deaths in the Khyber Teaching Hospital due to gas shortage.

They demanded judicial probe into the matter to award punishment to the people responsible for it.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2020

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