KARACHI: Two members from each side of the house spoke on Monday during a debate aimed at registering their proposals for the next financial year’s budget of the provincial government.

However, the lawmakers instead of forwarding their respective proposals indulged mainly in levelling allegations and counter-allegations and passing controversial remarks against each other.

Arsalan Taj Ghumman of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, who opened the pre-budget discussion, came down heavily on the Pakistan Peoples Party’s provincial government saying it could only achieve 30 per cent of its revenue target while the federal government achieved 42pc of its target.

“It is quite amazing that the Sindh government’s revenue is getting decreased but its expenditures are getting increased,” he said.

PPP, MQM-P want assembly session completely online in view of surge in Covid-19 cases

The PTI lawmaker said that the PPP always raised a hue and cry over the short release of funds by the federal government, adding that Sindh had received Rs20 billion short of its share in 2011-2012 when the PPP was in power both in the province and at the centre.

He said that the provincial government failed to increase revenue in the province. “It could only add Rs400 million to the agriculture income tax during the past 10 years,” he lamented.

Call to reduce tax on online sector

Mr Ghumman suggested to the provincial government to decrease tax on online services as it was higher in Sindh than other provinces.

He also asked the Sindh government to review its services tax if it wanted to enhance its revenue.

He pointed out that only Rs103bn was spent on development schemes, while the non-developmental budget of the province was Rs690bn.

Hailing the federal government, the PTI lawmaker said that the centre contributed 33pc amount of the Ehsaas Programme in Sindh, while the provincial share was 23pc.

Paying the PTI lawmaker in the same coin, Aijaz Shah Bukhari of the PPP vehemently criticised the federal government for committing ‘injustices’ with Sindh.

“Sindh collects maximum of the total revenues for the country, but gets no electricity, gas and its due share in resources from the centre,” he lamented.

He appreciated the chief minister and the provincial government for carrying out development works in the province despite shortage of funds.

He said that the drainage system in Tando Mohammad Khan was in a dilapidated condition and several roads were in poor condition. He demanded that provincial government make allocations for uplift schemes in his constituency in the next budget.

Adeel Ahmed of the PTI criticised the provincial government, saying it did nothing for the people of Sindh. He underlined the need for digitization of all provincial government departments for increasing revenue.

PPP’s Syed Zulfikar Shah demanded establishment of a university and a NICVD unit in Mirpurkhas, construction of Sindh nullah for Sindhri and construction of roads in his constituency.

80pc lawmakers to attend PA session online

At the outset of the proceedings, Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani said that it was decided in a meeting headed by Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and attended by all parliamentary parties that only 20pc lawmakers of each party would attend the sitting in the assembly hall and rest could attend online in view of the spike in Covid-19 cases.

He said that the Covid-19 situation in the country was alarming.

The speaker also asked the people sitting in different galleries to leave the house. “Nobody is allowed in the house except officers of the finance department, who are here to write down suggestions and proposals given by lawmakers in their pre-budget speeches,” he said.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Mohammad Hussain suggested to the speaker to hold the entire session virtually as the situation was very concerning.

He also suggested that the session might also be prorogued, adding that extraordinary decisions were taken in extraordinary circumstances. “The session could be summoned once again after the situation comes in control,” he added.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla also endorsed the MQM-P’s suggestion and said that his party would not oppose the idea of holding the entire session online. He said that the Sindh Assembly was the only legislative house in the country where the lawmakers could attend sessions virtually.

He said that he would contact all the parliamentary leaders of opposition parties to decide if all members could attend the session online.

PTI’s parliamentary leader Bilal Ghaffar, however, suggested to the speaker that the session should be prorogued instead of holding it online.

The session was adjourned to Tuesday (today).

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2021

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