MUZAFFARABAD: Opposition leaders in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Assembly on Tuesday solaced the PTI government on the issue of cuts by Islamabad in budgetary grants, but with a tinge of acerbic criticism of its performance.

The debate on this issue was initiated on an adjournment motion by the ruling party’s Deevan Ghulam Mohiuddin wherein while praising former premier Imran Khan for his “historic services” to the country, he asked the sitting federal government to “realise its responsibilities and immediately withdraw cuts on AJK budget to allow continuation of development process in the territory”.

Speaking on the motion, finance minister Abdul Majid Khan said that if the issue of cuts was not reviewed, not only all projects of public welfare would badly suffer, but increase in pay and pension of employees would also become impossible.

“We do realise the financial woes of the federal government but it should be kept in mind that Kashmiris have always rendered great sacrifices for Pakistan,” Mr Khan said while pointing out that Indian PM Narendra Modi had offered a huge fiscal package for occupied Kashmir, but the Kashmiris had rejected it outright.

Treasury members said that the cut would stave off their plans for betterment in different sectors, particularly health, education and tourism.

“The governments are a continuation of each other. We did not drop a single project of public utility launched by the previous [PML-N] government. If the cut is not withdrawn even the ongoing schemes will go into cold storage,” said education minister Deevan Ali Chughtai.

At least two cabinet members suggested the constitution of a house committee, representing both sides of the divide, to hold talks with the central government on this issue.

Speaking on the issue, leader of the opposition Chaudhry Latif Akbar solaced the government by saying that the opposition would lend support to it in its all lawful demands.

“However, before seeking justice you will have to dispense justice,” he said, asking the government to accept the opposition’s reasonable demands for a similar gesture from the latter.

Former prime minister and PML-N leader Raja Farooq Haider said the opposition was ready to talk to the central government on this issue. He advised the government not to draw comparisons with India which was the 5th largest economy of the world in a sharp contrast to Pakistan which was facing the worst ever fiscal crisis at the moment.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2022

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