LAHORE: Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi criticised the government for what he said increasing the property tax and also bringing villages into the ambit of the levy as proceedings of the house resumed after a two-day break here on Monday.

Dissatisfied at the answers being given by parliamentary secretary Faisal Farooq to the written queries of the legislators during the Question Hour, the speaker postponed the questions related to the excise department for another day.

The chair also questioned inclusion of villages in the property tax domain and increasing the levy by 10 to 15 per cent.

The issue had been raised by MPA Malik Muhammad Arshad from Sahiwal through a question in which it was mentioned that the villages making a part of his constituency had been brought under the property tax domain.

“We’ve never heard about levying property tax on villages. Is there any law (legal cover) to collect the tax from rural areas? If it is so, then produce its schedule before the house,” ordered the speaker.

Admitting that a 10pc to 15pc increase had been made in property tax, the parliamentary secretary said some rural settlements were large enough to be considered a town (and thus are taxed like in the towns).

Mr Elahi also drew the government’s attention towards increasing use of drugs in schools. He asked the parliamentary secretary if the government had done anything in this regard or had the excise department itself become proactive to control the menace before it’s too late.

Law Minister Raja Basharat, responding to it, informed the house that a separate directorate was being established in the excise department to check drugs use. He said the police were also active to take action on the issue.

MPA Malik Arshad, however, challenged the minister, saying a separate directorate had already been established by the PML-N government and his party membership had been suspended for raising the issue of rising drug use among the youth.

Speaking on a point of order, PML-N’s Samiullah Khan castigated the ministers over their persistent absence from the house proceedings. He said that the ministers would look out for excuses to miss the session as they were losing interest in the governance.

PPP parliamentary leader Syed Hassan Murtaza also took the government to task over inflation. He said the opposition would somehow placate their electorate, but wondered what the treasury lawmakers would do when they would return to the masses to seek votes in the next elections.

Mr Murtaza was continuing his tirade when the chair put off the proceedings till Tuesday morning.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2021

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