KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly on Thursday formally began debate on the provincial budget 2024-25, with treasury benches calling it “the most people-friendly budget of the history” while the opposition rejected the allocations and estimates and described the budget as a “pro feudal document” which would further widen the gulf between urban and rural areas.

Though the reaction from the opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) members was not surprising, the house wondered to some extent when a few members of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) pointed out a few shortcomings in the budget proposals and wanted more initiatives to become part of the budget 2024-25.

Chaired by Speaker Awais Qadir Shah, the House witnessed praising comments from the PPP members who called the Sindh budget 2024-25 a “true reflection” of a people-friendly budget as promised by PPP Chairman Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari.

PPP MPAs Sohrab Sarki, Tazeela Umme Habiba, Syed Hasan Ali Shah and Hallar Wasan were among those who heaped praise upon the PPP leadership, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and those who were part of that “great effort” to finalise the budget.

Govt’s own MPAs point out shortcomings, MQM-P calls it a ‘pro-feudal’ document

However, there were the party’s female MPAs on reserved seats who pointed out several areas which were left unaddressed in the budget and wanted their government to look into their proposals before the approval of the document from the Sindh Assembly.

The first was Bibi Yasmeen Shah who referred to several issues faced by the people of her ancestral town, Badin. She said that the town badly lacked facilities of education where on average, one teacher was available for 100 students.

She also mentioned the “poor health facilities” in her town where government hospitals and dispensaries did not have doctors and the required number of staff. She demanded the chief minister establish a branch of the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) in Badin.

Rukshana Shah from Thatta pointed out the lack of facilities at Keenjhar Lake where a number of incidents proved fatal due to the absence of lifeguards. She demanded the cultural and tourism minister’s early appointment and deployment of lifeguards at the lake for the safety of the visitors.

However, the MQM-P MPAs strongly criticised the budget proposals, particularly keeping their focus on allocations for urban areas of the province. The youngest MPA of the house Syed Muhammad Maaz Mehboob in his long speech, which was interrupted time and again due to applauses from his fellow members, referred to the “impractical estimates” of the “pro-feudal budget.”

He questioned the state of the education system in Sindh which had consumed Rs1.92 trillion since 2008 when the PPP government came into power and after 16 years of its rule, more than six million children of the province were still out of school.

“I appreciate that you have increased the education budget by 31 per cent for the next fiscal,” he said. “But please inform the people of Sindh that what are you doing with all this money?

“What changes would you bring with the estimated budget of Rs59 billion during 2024-25? The education department has consumed more than Rs1.92 trillion since 2008 when the PPP government into power but the education department of this province is the worst across Pakistan,” he added.

Bilqees Mukhtar in her speech mentioned the “worst crisis” of water supply in Karachi and asked about the reasons which led to “injustices with the people of the business capital.”

“This city faces waters shortfall of 50 MGD,” she said. “I wonder what are the reasons and what are those issues which lead to such injustices with the people of Karachi? What is their (Karachiites’) crime? The democracy isn’t any object. It’s reflected in attitude.

“We aren’t a traditional opposition. We would support if you do good but it’s so unfortunate that those who claim themselves as democratic didn’t bother to take opposition on board while finalising the budget proposals,” she said.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2024

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