PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Khan Gandapur on Friday announced a probe into the financial and administrative moves of the last caretaker government in the province.

“We passed the 2023–24 budget, including expenditure by the caretakers, just to ensure the system functions smoothly, but we will get all steps of the caretakers regarding financial and administrative matters, including appointments, probed by a committee of this house to check their legality,” Mr Gandapur told the assembly in a sitting chaired by Speaker Babar Saleem Swati.

The chief minister said the political parties that “facilitated” the caretaker government in delaying the Feb 8 elections should mend their ways.

He criticised opposition parties in the province for keeping mum over a crackdown on the PTI leaders and workers and their families, and the violation of the Constitution and the law after May 9 protests, and warned that could happen to them as well.

Says centre denying funds to province

Mr Gandapur said the election results were enough to silence the critics of the PTI governments in the centre and provinces.

He said the PTI-backed candidates won the polls despite being denied a level playing field.

The chief minister complained that the centre paid Rs300 billion less than the routine annual funding to the province in the current fiscal year, but even then, the province would pay Rs96 billion from its surplus budget to the centre by June 30 in line with loan conditions set by the International Monetary Fund.

He claimed that despite promise, the federal government was not paying funds for the development of merged tribal districts, whose residents rendered great sacrifices, including displacement, for peace.

“We want Rs50 billion dues cleared for the development of merged districts within two months. If this doesn’t happen, then we’ll be left with no choice but to go beyond what they [centre] declare our irresponsible conduct,” he said.

Mr Gandapur also complained that the centre didn’t provide the province with its due share in the federal divisible pool to fight terrorism.

He said there was a limit to requests for funds and clearance of dues.

The chief minister warned the centre against taxing the erstwhile federally and provincially administered tribal areas without taking stakeholders, including the provincial government, on board.

“You [the federal government] have messed with the wrong guy and have no idea about it,” he said.

Mr Gandapur said the next budget would be meant for creating business opportunities in the province instead of the provision of jobs in government departments.

He said the treasury had enough members in the provincial assembly for legislation but wanted to take the opposition along.

The chief minister said he would continue fighting for the rights of the province and wouldn’t let Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s administration have smooth sailing in the event of the denial of those rights.

“Nobody can stop us from claiming our province’s rights. We will make no compromise on them,” he said.

In response to the speech of the chief minister, Leader of the Opposition Dr Ibadullah Khan accused the government of double standard and said on one hand, the treasury didn’t own the budget for 2023–24, but on the other, it passed it.

He said a proper forum was available for the redressal of grievances over the Feb 8 election’s results.

“We’re ready for a poll probe,” he said.

Earlier, Dr Ibadullah said the supplementary budget was from the last PTI government’s budget for the financial year 2022–23.

He said the province had to clear huge sums of debt, and those who didn’t know how to pay those debts always came up with supplementary budgets.

The opposition leader said he wasn’t opposed to the Sehat Card health insurance programme but wanted the utilisation of funds properly audited.

He said if the chief minister wanted to fight for the province’s rights, he should take back the Fata House handed over by former prime minister Imran Khan to some quarters.

Dr Ibadullah said as the prime minister, Imran Khan was the first person to vote for the imposition of taxes in the federally and provincially administered tribal areas.

He said he, as an MNA, and his brother, Amir Muqam, as the then federal cabinet member, rejected that move.

Finance minister Aftab Alam Afridi told the house that a supplementary budget was tabled in the house when the actual budget was revised or costs escalated.

He said the opposition leader didn’t know that the caretaker setup was there for eight months but stayed put from January 2023 to February 2024, including six months of the financial year 2022–23.

The chair later put up the sitting until 2pm on Monday.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2024

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