RE - Members of the present ruling coterie, whether sitting in the opposition or on the treasury benches, have no comparison in launching tirade against their opponents, and this is exactly what they did on Friday at the Punjab Assembly during the second day of the general discussion on the provincial budget.
While the treasury members in the absence of the opposition did make certain mild suggestions to the government, they lavishly praised their fellows besides being equally bitter about the previous government. Interestingly, in the run to the spontaneous overflow of feelings, their speeches were based more on the rhetoric and less on the fiscal layout 2007-08.
Member Pakistan Peoples Party Azma Zahid Bukhari labelled the Q-League stint as the worst and most corrupt era in Punjab history. While starting off with paying rich tributes to Benazir Bhutto especially -'no match as mother, sister, wife, politician and a national leader' - and the Family Bhutto family overall, fluent Azma blasted the leaders of the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM), including Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Imran Khan. She asserted that it was Qazi Hussain Ahmad who provided Pervez Musharraf with an opportunity to be in uniform, while the nation was suffering of the Qazi's support. She demanded of the Khan to clear the ground for corruption allegations in the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital. "One must look into its own deeds before criticising others," she advised Qazi and Khan.
Then came the turn of the Q-League when Azma talked extensively on the doings of the previous regime, while asserting that stupendous amounts of money had been spent on the Kafalat Programme of which there were no details made available. She questioned why the Nakai Family was given Rs two million as financial assistance when the said family was influential and rich. She also pointed out some Syed Ali Murtaza, who was given huge amount for his daughter's treatment. Besides this, she said Rs three million were given to lawyer SM Zafar as fee. "They (Q-League rulers) paid these amounts for meeting the political ends, which made no justification," she maintained, while adding that the previous government appointed influential persons on lucrative salaries, besides only provincial health department purchased newspapers, magazines and periodicals by spending Rs 20 million. "The last government was the most corrupt in the history of the Punjab, and the rulers dished out the public money for political motives. The looted money should be deposited in the public exchequer," she demanded, while seeking more funds for women uplifting programmes.
While commending the present government for bringing the best budget under the given circumstances, she suggested that the poor should be given maximum relief.
Treasury member Iftikhar Ali Khaitraan suggested that the neglected areas, especially in the southern Punjab, should be on the top priority, and probe should be made into the water filtration plants, as millions of rupee had been embezzled. While asking the government to actualise people's expectations, he averred that the previous government delivered nothing, which had put more pressure on the present regime.
Another treasury member Ehsan-ul-Haq Naulatia, while accusing the PML-Q for burdening the Punjab with foreign debts worth Rs 304 billion, which was 70 per cent of the total budget. "We purchased wheat worth Rs 25 billion, while Rs 44 billion have been spent from the supplementary grant. The government should make every possible effort to eliminate the curse of loan," he suggested, while crediting the government for good budget.
Mian Muhammad Rafique, Joel Amer Sahotra, Ms Amina Butter and others also spoke, while they wanted of the government to focus on bettering the deteriorating situation of the poor. Development of health, agriculture and education sectors, besides law and order situation, remained priority with varying degrees for the provincial legislators.
Later, at about 1 pm, the House was adjourned till Saturday morning till 10 am when the PA will have two sessions - from 10 am to 2 pm, and from 4 pm to 9pm for second session with a 2-hour break from 2 pm to 4 pm. This is to ensure participation of the maximum members on the budget. This was announced by acting Speaker Punjab Assembly Rana Mashhood Ahmad after members demanded so.
Earlier, Syed Nazim Hussain Shah said at the time when the House had 80 members in 1970, four days were fixed for discussion on the budget, and with 371 members in the House, three days were less. "Everyone intends to participate in the budget debate, but due to shrinking time, members could not deliver their speeches," he said, while suggesting increasing number of days.