PESHAWAR: Treasury members in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Monday announced that they would approve budget for the current financial year despite reservations as it was mostly utilised by the last caretaker government.

During an assembly session chaired by Speaker Babar Saleem Swati and called to discuss the budget 2023-24, those lawmakers complained that they had a minimal share in the spending, as out of Rs1.35 trillion, over Rs1.15 trillion was spent during the caretaker setup.

They said that a special committee should be formed to “investigate” the expenditure.

Former speaker of the assembly Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani said the house was discussing the budget of the unconstitutional caretaker government, which stayed beyond its stipulated period of 90 days.

Demands PAC, NAB probe into expenditure by caretakers

He also insisted that the funds were used against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

“Under what law did the caretaker government approve schemes?”

Mr Ghani said the house was under a constitutional obligation to pass the budget but it would do so despite reservations as it belonged to the last caretaker government.

He said the Public Accounts Committee and the National Accountability Bureau should investigate spending by the caretakers.

MPA Laiq Mohammad Khan accused the caretaker government of committing Rs11 billion worth of corruption and illegally recruiting 4,500 people and insisted he could provide evidence for it.

He requested the speaker to put off discussion on the budget and order an investigation into his assertions.

“A special committee should be formed to probe the corruption of and illegal recruitments by caretakers,” he said.

Special assistant to the chief minister for industries, commerce and technical education Abdul Karim Khan said the federal government paid more than 92 per cent of KP’s expenditure but didn’t pay tobacco cess and arrears of hydel power, oil, and gas.

He also said the police used the funds, which were meant for maintaining law and order in the province, against the PTI.

“All decisions made by the caretakers should be declared void,” he said.

Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Dr Ibadullah Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz told the house that the opposition would jointly fight the provincial government’s funding case.

He added that it was the job of the province’s chief executive to argue the case with the centre and if he did so, the opposition would support him.

Dr Ibadullah wondered how much money was provided by the PTI government in the centre to the PTI government in KP between 2018 and 2022.

“How much money did [Prime Minister] Imran Khan’s government give away under the divisible pool for the merged tribal districts of our province in four years?”

The opposition leader said if, according to the budget speech, one per cent of the divisible pool for law and order totalled Rs91 billion, where the funds were spent for 10 years when the chief minister’s constituency itself was a no-go area.

He also questioned how a district and sessions judge was kidnapped and freed.

“If the government paid ransom to anti-state elements for the release of the judge, it strengthened them,” he said.

Awami National Party member Arbab Usman said the provincial government complained about unavailability of funds, but it itself was not releasing funds to local government representatives.

“Instead of criticising, we are willing to work with you,” he told treasury members.

Mr Usman said the government should focus on exploring oil and gas reservoirs, as there were provisions after the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

PML-N MPA Sobia Shahid said that the current provincial government sought details of the spending during the caretaker government but won’t share details of their own nine years of government in the province.

“They [PTI] spent the government’s nine-year earnings from the province on the May 9 violence,” she alleged, triggering a ruckus in the house.

The speaker adjourned the sitting for today (Tuesday) at 2pm after treasury members pointed out a lack of quorum.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2024

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