ISLAMABAD, June 17: The federal government on Tuesday came to the rescue of Balochistan to enable it to finalise its budget in the wake of an outburst by Senate’s Deputy Chairman Jan Mohammad Jamali on the floor of the house during the debate on the federal budget.

Senator Jamali talked about “another dismemberment of the country” if the provinces were not given autonomy.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced a special grant of three billion rupees for Balochistan from his discretionary fund to help the province finalise its development budget and formed a committee to look into its complaints relating to gas development surcharge and royalty rates.

The committee, formed after a meeting between the prime minister and a delegation of Balochistan’s parliamentary leaders led by Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani, will be headed by Federal Law Minister Farooq Naek.

According to an official announcement, the committee was directed to submit its report by Wednesday evening.

Earlier, Senate’s Deputy Chairman Jan Mohammad Jamali stunned everyone when he spoke about the country’s “disintegration” if the provinces were not given autonomy, particularly Balochistan, his native province.

“I have to speak out. You have to give provincial autonomy and soon. Time is running out fast,” he told the upper house on a point of order, allegorically warning that otherwise “the four brothers (provinces) will not be able to live together”.

His emotional outburst came just before the start of the general debate on the budget when he took the floor on a point of order.

“You owe Balochistan Rs800 billion in royalty since natural gas started flowing out of the province in 1955, and that account will have to be settled,” he said.

Acknowledging that there was no tradition for a deputy chairman to speak on a point of order, Mr Jamali said he had been left with no option but to speak up for the people of his province because the situation was “fast running out of control”.

He drew the attention of the house towards the fact that Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani and a number of his ministers were in Islamabad to seek financial assistance from the federal government so that they could prepare the provincial budget.

Mr Jamali regretted that his province did not have resources to present the budget for the next financial year.

“One brother is rich with resources, but it has no powers,” Mr Jamali said, adding: “You will have to bring constitutional amendments. If you want to run the country, you will have to give powers to my province and to Pakhtoonkhwa (NWFP) to use their resources … You will have to give us rights if you want to run the country.”

Referring to the hometown of Senate Chairman Mohammadmian Soomro, he said he feared that a time might come when he would have to ‘visit Jacobabad on a passport’.

He regretted that many committees had been formed on the Balochistan issue, but “without any concrete outcome”.

In the evening, a delegation of Balochistan legislators, comprising Jan Jamali, members of the National Assembly and senators from Balochistan, met the prime minister and apprised him of the province’s grievances.

The prime minister announced a special grant of Rs3 billion in addition to Rs640 million allocated by him last week for electrification of Nushki and Dalbandin, Rs340 million for gas supply to Surab and Rs360 million for Nushki under the People’s Works Programme.

The prime minister told the delegation that international assistance was being sought for building small dams in remote areas. Four of the five new dams, proposed to be built at a cost of Rs250 billion, would be constructed in Balochistan.

The chief minister gave an overview of the financial constraints facing Balochistan while the province’s finance minister briefed the prime minister about economic problems.

The prime minister said that in contrast to the federal government’s allocation of Rs26 billion for Balochistan, it would spend Rs42 billion on PSDP projects in the province.

He said that the government firmly resolved to grant maximum autonomy to provinces in consultation with their elected representatives.

He said his government would ensure strict implementation of the six per cent quota in federal jobs for Balochistan. He said 3,806 vacancies would be advertised soon in Balochistan, adding that qualifications for these jobs could be relaxed to accommodate youths.

He said his government had promoted five officers from Balochistan to Grade-22, terming it unprecedented.

The prime minister was assisted by Federal Minister for Finance Naveed Qamar, Minister for Population Welfare Humayun Aziz Kurd, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Salman Farooqui, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, chief secretary of Balochistan and senior officials of the federal and Balochistan government.



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