Rs164bn AJK budget approved amid opposition boycott

Published July 1, 2022
Azad Jam­mu and Kashmir Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas addresses the legislative assembly on Thursday. — Photo by author
Azad Jam­mu and Kashmir Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas addresses the legislative assembly on Thursday. — Photo by author

MUZAFFARABAD: The Azad Jam­mu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative As­­sembly on Thursday approved Rs163.7 billion budget for the fiscal year 2022-23 without any disruption in the absence of the 20-member opposition.

AJK Finance Minister Abdul Majid Khan presented one after the other demands for grant of Rs135.2bn for recurring expenditures and Rs28.5bn for developmental activities in the house presided over by the ruling PTI’s Mohammad Rafique Nayyar as member of the panel of chairmen.

Since the opposition continued its boycott of the budget session, it was smooth sailing for Mr Khan as he did not face any cut motion.

The house also accorded approval to the revised budget for 2021-22 to the tune of Rs135.7bn, including Rs22.8bn for developmental activities.

PM Ilyas rebukes bureaucracy; monetary assistance given to Zakat recipients raised by Rs9,000

Demands for grant for additional expenditures beyond the approved budget for fiscal years 2019-20 to 2020-21 were also approved.

During the earlier part of the session, presided over by Deputy Speaker Chaudhry Riaz Gujjar, Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas delivered an overlong speech, during which he made dozens of announcements about different sectors “with a view to ameliorating the living standards of the people of state”.

“I have no qualms about saying that Azad Kashmir will soon undergo a real change and people will see their dreams translated into reality,” he asserted.

He announced an increase of Rs1,500 per person in the monthly subsistence allowance of post-1989 Kashmiri refugees and added that 1,303 independent houses as well as a residential complex would be built for their rehabilitation with the assistance of the federal government. He said houses would also be built with the help of private sector and donors for the deserving families of martyrs from army and police.

The prime minister’s voice literally choked when he referred to the paltry sum of Rs3,000 given to Zakat recipients once a year and said it would be raised to Rs12,000. He also announced increasing the amount of dowry fund for poor girls to Rs75,000.

Announcing establishment of Quran academies in Muzaffarabad, Mirpur and Bhimber, PM Ilyas said vacant posts of muftis would be filled during next year. He also announced providing free electricity to mosques holding five prayers a day.

Vowing to improve the education sector on modern lines, the PM said that 86 primary, 56 middle and 61 high schools and 45 intermediate colleges would be upgraded.

The government would provide 1,000 scholarships to deserving students and impart vocational training to 1,200 people in the first phase in Punjab for promotion of cottage industry, he added.

While vowing to improve the condition and services in state-run hospitals, he took strong exception to frequent strikes by doctors and warned that “murder and terrorism charges would be framed against the doctors in the event of the death of any patient during their strike”.

Bureaucracy rebuked

When the prime minister arrived in the house, he was irritated to see the secretaries’ gallery almost empty. He retired to his chamber and returned after 15 minutes when almost all secretaries had dashed and seated in the gallery.

Without mincing words, the prime minister asked the bureaucracy to “mend its ways” instead of trying to let down the government.

“A government servant should not try to behave as Plato,” he said and warned: “Those daring to challenge the orders of the prime minister or ministers will repent at the end of the day.”

“We have shown a lot of tolerance and those who consider it as our weakness are mistaken… No one but this house is sacred and supreme and no one can challenge the authority of this house,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2022

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