LAHORE - The Model Town incident kept haunting the Treasury benches on the third consecutive day as the Opposition kept the issue alive by agitating the issue both inside and out side the House.
It also staged walkout from the Assembly when the Speaker declined a plea by the Opposition leader to hold debate on the topic.
Knowing full well that rules don’t allow discussion on any other subject during the budget debate, Opposition Leader, Mahmoodur Rashid insisted that House be allowed to debate on Model Town killings and the subsequent registration of fake cases against PAT workers.
Mahmood told the chair that the issue was under discussion in other legislatures and Punjab Assembly should also follow the suit.
“I cannot deviate from the rules which don’t allow me to allow the House to take up any other issue during the budget debate”, pronounced Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal in a firm tone.
He also told the Opposition leader that government had already taken notice of the matter.
Punjab Minister for Zakat & Ushar Nadeem Kamran intervened and said that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had ordered inquiry into the incident to get at the real culprits.
Not satisfied with the official assurance, the Opposition leader still insisted on acceptance of his point. “On the one hand, the government has constituted a Judicial Commission to probe the matter, while on the other fake cases are being instituted against PAT workers”, he deplored, adding, that it was unfortunate to open fire at the unarmed workers.
The Opposition leader led a walk out from the assembly after being denied permission to raise the issue at the Assembly floor.
Talking to the media outside Punjab Assembly, Mahmoodur Rashid alleged that the Judicial Commission would not be able to complete its assigned task independently unless the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah resign from their offices.
He also wanted to know the fate of previous Judicial Commissions constituted on different matters. He said recommendations of these commissions were never implemented.
“The government should admit its mistake first, tender public apology and then the things may move forward”, he said.
The Opposition later rejoined the proceedings and its members participated in the budget debate.
The members from Opposition benches complained that while the development budget is not utilised fully, the departments spend more than their allocations and the government has to get supplementary budget approved by the assembly.
Sardar Shahabuddin Khan of PPP said that a major chunk of Rs 263 billion allocated for South Punjab consisted of bloc allocations which means that they could be diverted to other projects any time.
Ahmad Khan Bacchar of PTI pointed out that agriculture constituted 22 per cent of the GDP but only 1.4 per cent of the total budget has been allocated for this sector.
He said that Rs 17 billion were allocated for public health in the last budget but only Rs 5 billion were actually utilised by the department as most of the allocated amount consisted of bloc allocations.
Arif Abbasi of PTI said that the government had allocated Rs 344 million for Chief Minister’s Secretariat last year but the actual spending comes to Rs 539 million.
He said only 37 per cent of the ADP for the year 2013-14 had been utilised till date.
PPP’s Faiza Malik suggested that a Provincial Finance Commission be formed for equitable distribution of provincial resources among the districts. She believed it would end sense of deprivation among the people of South Punjab and other remote areas.
Treasury members in their speeches praised the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for presenting a pro-poor budget. They also highlighted different development projects of the government for which huge allocations have been made in the budget.
Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman concluded debate on the provincial budget which was mainly a reiteration of his budget speech. But he had to wait for an hour to start his speech as Arif Abbasi of PTI pointed out lack of quorum in the House. Thanks to officials of the Chief Minister Secretariat deployed inside the Assembly building that Treasury was able to show required number of members in the House. These officials perform the functions of Chief Whip which has not been appointed in the present assembly.
But it took the officials around an hour to complete the quorum as the Deputy Speaker had to adjourn the sitting for 15 minutes in the process.