MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly session was prorogued sine die by the chair on Wednesday without presentation of budget 2021-22.
The treasury benches sought the prorogation of the session “as a mark of protest” against a bar in the federal budget on the rate of withholding tax for the independent power producers (IPPs) located wholly or partially in the AJK territory.
A statement to this effect was made by Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider in his hard-hitting speech on the floor of the house, presided over by Speaker Shah Ghulam Qadir.
The session was scheduled to commence at 11am and weighty budget books had also been placed on all desks.
However, it started at about 3pm due to an unusually long cabinet meeting on this issue.
The assembly proceedings were attended by only 16 legislators, one of them from the opposition.
Voicing his reservations about some steps by the PTI led central government, PM Haider informed the house that there had been an ‘un-written understanding’ between the governments of AJK and Pakistan that all taxes imposed in Pakistan would be replicated in AJK, after a formal approval from the AJK assembly.
However, he added, an “anomaly” had been observed in the federal budget wherein the withholding tax on value of offshore supply contract of the IPPs located wholly or partially in the AJK territory had been fixed at 1% as against 1.4c in Pakistan.
He wondered how the central government could isolate AJK or take a decision that did not fall in its competence.
Mr Haider said AJK had regained its financial and administrative powers after a long and tiring struggle through an amendment in the Constitution.
He said he had also made it clear to a federal minister that the central government could not directly spend any amount of money in AJK.
Between the lines, Mr Haider also took umbrage at the AJK Election Commission (EC), which had declared last week that the [AJK] prime minister and ministers could not take part in election campaigns in official vehicles and had also recently stopped the tendering process of different schemes.
“Let it be clear that there is no concept of interim government in Azad Kashmir. The institution which has to conduct free and fair elections has been invested with these powers by this very house,” he said of the EC and added: “Neither can any institution be superior to the government nor can any institution take over the powers of the government.”
Mr Haider claimed that as prime minister of Pakistan Mian Nawaz Sharif had not held any meeting on AJK polls in his office or even his private residences.
On the contrary, he alleged, PM Khan had held two meetings on AJK polls, “directing people and institutions under him that he wanted to see the PTI government in AJK at all costs.”
The AJK premier also made it clear that AJK would not become a province.
“Yes it will become a province when the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir will decide so through vote.”
Wrapping up his speech, he asked the chair to adjourn the session sine die until a decision on the finance bill.
Though opposition MLA Malick Nawaz mildly opposed the idea but after reiteration by the prime minister of his arguments, he did not press for his demand.
After seeking opinion from law minister Farooq Ahmed Tahir, the chair announced prorogation of the session till an unspecified period.
Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2021