Rasheed delivers ‘fiery’ speech to open budget debate

LAHORE: Electricity issues electrified the opposition leader during general discussion on annual budget for the 2014-15 fiscal that opened in the Punjab Assembly on Monday.As per democratic tradition, Opposition Leader Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed, of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), opened the general debate by delivering what appeared to be a fiery speech, hurling allegations against the government that it had failed in overcoming power outages in a year despite claims made by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders during the electioneering ahead for the 2013 general elections that they would do the needful within six months after coming to power. He said that the government allocated only Rs 31 billion to the energy sector which amount appears to be too tiny to combat the crisis of such magnitude. He also said that energy generation through furnace oil had been rejected all over the world because of its potential threat to environment but our rulers were still emphasising energy generation through oil which would also be very expensive as compared to energy produced by hydropower plants.Mehmood asked the government as to why it was not taking initiative to build the Kalabagh dam when the PML-N was in government at the federal as well as at the provincial level. He said that the Kalabagh dam was the only project that could contribute to cheap electricity production for this poor nation.The opposition leader went on saying that Chashma Nuclear Power Plant was producing electricity at the rate of Rs 7 per unit, asking the government again as to why it was not giving preference to producing nuclear energy. Rasheed lamented that what to speak of giving preference to nuclear energy, the government was not giving funds to nuclear power plants.He criticised the launch of Metro bus projects especially in the cities of Rawalpindi and Multan, saying that the nation could not progress through construction of transportation projects but that it could only progress through provision of best educational facilities and that it was unfortunate that the government was not giving attention to this sector also.He said that four educational systems were in force in the province – institutions like Aitchison College and Beaconhouse schools for the elite, English-medium private schools, Urdu-medium government schools and religious seminaries – which were indeed dividing the nation into more classes. He said that examination results of Daanish schools were also poor as compared to hefty budget allocations made to such institutions.He said that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif should close down his “(extra) camp offices in Murree and four other places” if he was sincere in reducing secretariat expenditures. He also criticised the chief minister for gifting a precious Sargodha pedigree horse to a Turkish celebrity from public funds.The opposition leader criticised the poor law and order situation and said that though the government had enhanced the police budget by 16 percent, the crime rate had registered unprecedented surge during the tenure of this government throughout the province. The crime rate had gone up by 84 percent in the city of Lahore alone, he added.He said that out of 84, 57 station house officers (SHOs) in the provincial capital had criminal background while a judge of the high court had observed that progress of police, especially in registration as well as in investigation of cases, was poor and that 90 percent of criminals walk free from courts only because of poor investigation.Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentary Leader Qazi Ahmad Saeed and members from both divides of the house, including Sheikh Allauddin, Ali Asghar Manda, Dr Aisha Ghous Pasha and Azma Zahid Bokhari, participated in the debate.The session started 90 minutes late to its scheduled 3pm time with Speaker Rana Iqbal Khan in the chair. The house observed two-minute silence to pay respect to Hendry Masih, a Christian member of the Balochistan Assembly, who was assassinated two days ago. The general debate on the budget will continue today also.

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