LAHORE: The opposition briefly boycotted the Punjab Assembly (PA) proceedings on Wednesday to protest against refusal by the chair to table a resolution in which Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was demanded to resign in the wake of Model Town incident. Speaker Rana Iqbal Khan said that the Model Town incident was a sub judice matter, as a judicial commission had already been constituted to probe into the incident.
Although Opposition Leader Mehmoodur Rasheed was not allowed to table the resolution out of turn, he read it out on a point of order in which he held the chief minister responsible for Model Town incident of June 17 and demanded Chief Minister Shahbaz to resign forthwith by assuming overall responsibility of the incident.
When the speaker stopped him from tabling the resolution, Rasheed resorted to protest sloganeering. After announcing boycott of proceedings, Rasheed later led a walkout of all opposition members. However, they ended their boycott within 10 minutes and returned to take part in the proceedings.
The Wednesday’s session started an hour late to its scheduled time of 10am with Speaker Khan in the chair.
At the outset, the chair informed the House that reconciliation between opposition member Asif Mehmood and treasury member Salma Shaheen Butt had amicably been reached.
Opposition members, however, said that although reconciliation had been effected, the speaker’s announcement did not do full justice and that the chair must declare a punishment for the person guilty of the quarrel between the two lawmakers a few days ago outside the assembly chamber.
The speaker snubbed the opposition members, saying that he (speaker) is elder to Asif Mehmood in age; therefore, he could take this decision. On this, Asif walked out of the House in protest.
Later, the House took up general discussion on 2013-14 supplementary budget. Rahila Anwar, Arif Abasi, Sardar Shahabuddin, Raja Rashid Hafeez, Sabtain Khan, Dr Noshin, Dr Waseem Akhtar, Ahmad Khan Bhachhar, Waheed Dogar and Khadija Umar Farooqi from the opposition and Kaniz Akhtar, Shazia Tariq, Nabera Andalib, Arif Sandhela, Sardar Jamal Leghari, Mary Gill, Rukhsana Kokab, Mehfooz Mashhadi and Fozia Ayub from the treasury benches participated in the discussion.
Criticising the supplementary budget, opposition members took exception to economic governance of the PML-N government, calling it poor as well bad. They said that extra funds to the tune of Rs 22 billion have been demanded through 41 demands for grants despite allocation of sufficient funds for departments in the 2013-14 annual budget.
They suggested to the government to cut the salaries of officials, who were responsible for these extra expenditures. They said that though Shahbaz Sharif had announced cutting 30 percent expenditures of the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, Rs 180 million extra had been used on it. They further said that the government used only 37 percent of the annual development programme budget.
The Model Town incident also come under discussion with different references, especially when the issue of supplementary grants for the police department was taken up and opposition members said that the Punjab government was paying Rs 2.4 million for keeping dogs but was giving Rs 3 million to victims of the June 17 incident which was not justice.
Sabtain Khan said that he could prove embezzlement worth billions of rupees in funds of tehsil/town municipal administrations (TMAs) and that he was ready to face any punishment if he was proved wrong. He demanded the government to check the records of TMAs.
Dr Waseem, took exception to economic system based on interest (riba), demanding its abolishment being an unconstitutional and un-Islamic economic system. He also quoted some references from the Holy Quran and Hadith in support of his stance.
Kaniz Akhtar said that general sales tax (GST) and income tax must be imposed only on the rich and that all indirect taxes including, GST, should be withdrawn. She also suggested amending laws to change “thana culture” and to make it possible that a criminal case was registered on the spot and at once.
Shazia Tariq urged the Punjab government to fix Rs 15,000 per month minimum wage for labourers while budget for minorities should also be increased to Rs 1 billion.
Nabira Andalib demanded imposing services tax on religious clerics/preachers along with lawyers and doctors.
Sardar Jamal Leghari announced withdrawing his demand for an independent southern Punjab province and said that the PML-N government had brought his area’s grievances to end after allocating huge funds for development projects in the cities of Multan, Muzafargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan and Fort Munro. Later, Finance Minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman wound up the debate, saying that the provincial government would try to reduce the supplementary budget further as it had already reduced it from Rs 82 billion in 2012-13 to Rs 22 billion in 2013-14. Cut motions on the supplementary budget would be presented today (Thursday).
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