LAHORE: Both treasury and opposition benches took more interest in political point-scoring than discussing the provincial budget as the Punjab Assembly met here on Thursday after a break of six days to debate and pass or reject the budget 2024-25.

Opposition leader Malik Ahmed Khan Bhachar opened the budget debate while Speaker Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan was chairing the session.

Mr Bhachar challenged the government’s claim that the budget was surplus. Quoting figures from the finance minister’s speech, he said it rather contained a deficit of Rs803bn.

Referring to the ‘rationalising’ of some duties in the finance bill, he regretted that the tax burden was enhanced for the poor masses while the treasury was claiming it to be tax-free. He said the farming community suffered Rs789bn losses due to the Punjab government’s sudden refusal to procure wheat this season while various industries were closing fast because of the highest power tariff.

Opp leader says Punjab had Rs803bn deficit budget

Mr Bhachar said oil prices were being cut but on the other hand, power tariff was being raised to balance the situation.

Claiming that Rs1bn allocated for the transgender community were in fact apportioned as the payment for targeting PTI leaders, he said if the allocation was being given to real transpersons, its package should be enhanced as per inflation in the country.

The opposition leader chided the government for naming every project after Chief Minister Maryam or her father Nawaz Sharif and said that the PML-N was copycatting the PTI projects.

He complained of use of delaying tactics in submitting challans of the PTI leaders arrested in various cases while MPA-elect Aslam Iqbal was not being allowed to join the session despite having confirmed bail.

The PTI-backed SIC MPA from Faisalabad, Rana Aftab, said the PML-N should explain its performance of 21 years and not 100 days. He alleged that the unwholesome imported wheat was given at 50pc less rate while it was not consumable for humans.

Treasury MPA Shaukat Raja criticised the PTI for, what he termed, deceiving the masses on ‘absolutely no’ to the US. He said the party offered incentives to Faisalabad industrialists because they had financed its 106-day long sit-in in Islamabad. He said those making an issue out of London flats must also respond to queries on how Aleema Khan made billions just through her sewing machine.

SIC MPA Junaid Sahi said the bureaucrats, who brought the ‘Form-47’ government, were being provided with relief in the budget. He said the budgetary exercise in the assembly was futile as the house was being used as a ‘rubber stamp’ only to pass whatever was proposed in the budget books.

The PPP’s Ahmed Saeed Qazi recalled the service of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for the country. He demanded a pro-growers sugarcane policy and upward revision of increase in salaries of government employees.

SIC MPA Ashifa Fatyana lamented that after wheat the rates of rice, maize, cotton and sugarcane were also on the decline and demanded reduction in prices of farm inputs.

Pir Ashraf Rasool, Ali Imtiaz Warraich, Nasir Cheema, Rana Munawwar Ghaus, Sajjad Warraich, Emanuel Masih, Sheikh Imtiaz and others also took part in the budget debate before the proceedings were put off for Friday morning.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2024

Opinion

On writing

On writing

There is no ceremony or ritual that marks any person as a writer except the simple yet unimaginably significant act of starting to write.

Editorial

A way forward
Updated 17 Jul, 2024

A way forward

Before political leaders inflict more damage, they must give talks a chance.
Export delusions
Updated 18 Jul, 2024

Export delusions

Plummeting exports as a ratio of GDP is one of the major reasons driving the current economic slowdown and the balance-of-payments crisis.
Diversity in UK politics
17 Jul, 2024

Diversity in UK politics

THE recent UK elections have ushered in the most diverse parliament in the nation’s history. Under the leadership...
Banning PTI
Updated 16 Jul, 2024

Banning PTI

It appears that the govt and its backers within the establishment have still not realised that they are in uncharted territory.
Nato at 75
16 Jul, 2024

Nato at 75

EMERGING from the ashes of World War II, and locked in confrontation with the Soviet-led Communist bloc for over ...
Non-stop massacres
16 Jul, 2024

Non-stop massacres

Netanyahu is cunningly pretending to talk peace while mercilessly pounding Gaza. What is clear is that a return to pre-Oct 7 status quo is impossible.