MUZAFFARABAD: An ‘extraordinary meeting’ of the members of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) cabinet and parliamentary secretaries on Sunday decided not to present the 2022-23 budget in the event of cuts by the government of Pakistan on the region’s budgetary grants.

Presided over by Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas, the meeting was attended by 13 out of 16 ministers, three out of four advisers and special assistants, and three out of five parliamentary secretaries.

Legislative Assembly speaker Chaudhry Anwarul Haq, who has been functioning as acting president these days, was also in attendance.

The meeting constituted a 12-member committee to take the opposition within and outside the assembly on board on the issue of budget cuts.

PM Ilyas regrets budget cuts on PTI-governed Azad Kashmir, GB

Another two committees were also formed to raise voice on this issue on traditional and social media.

According to an official press release,Prime Minister Ilyas regretted that the Shehbaz Sharif-led federal government was imposing budget cuts on the territories of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) governed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

“This territory (AJK) is not only the base camp of [Kashmir’s] liberation but also strategically important in view of India’s aggression at the Line of Control… It cannot afford budget cuts,” he was quoted as saying at the meeting.

“We will apprise the government of Pakistan of the region’s sensitive nature as well as the situation arising out of budget cuts,” he added.

Mr Haq was quoted as saying that the budgetary cuts would leave a “negative impact” on the region.

According to the press release, the ministers maintained that Kashmiris had already been rendering sacrifices for Pakistan and “if Pakistan was still in need of their offerings the federal government could stop their entire budget”.

The meeting decided to raise voice in unison on the issue of budget cuts, the press release said.

Meanwhile, separately AJK minister for local government and rural development Khawaja Farooq Ahmed also blamed the central government for demonstrating “bitter enmity” against the people of AJK and GB through “cuts on their upcoming budgets”.

Talking to Dawn, he said the AJK government had been asked to prepare the development budget of the next fiscal year to the tune of Rs29 billion.

“However, at the same time, we have been asked not only to foot the bills of the projects previously directly sponsored by the federal government but also make payments of salaries to the employees of foreign-funded projects from the Rs29 billion.”

Already, he said, the federal government had slashed the current year’s development budget by Rs5.2 billion and since most of the development work against this amount had been done this burden would also shift to the next year’s meagre allocation.

“In the backdrop of this situation, we will be practically left with hardly Rs8-9 billion in the next fiscal year’s development budget which is why the parliamentary party is unanimous that preparation of the budget is next to impossible,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2022

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