Opposition, treasury confrontation derails debate on budget in Sindh Assembly

Dawn

KARACHI: A ruckus broke out in the Sindh Assembly on Tuesday during the third day of debate on the provincial budget as treasury and opposition members hit each other below the belt.

While the intermittent protests by the lawmakers from the two sides marred almost the entire session, the situation took an ugly turn after Education Minister Saeed Ghani and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan legislator Javed Hanif exchanged harsh words.

The MQM-P member, who was given the floor to speak on the budget, became visibly irritated when Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani interrupted him and switched off his microphone reminding him that his allocated time of 10 minutes for debating the budget had ended.

The speaker told the MQM-P member not to “give me dictation” when he insisted on having some more time for his speech. “It was decided with the consent of parliamentary leaders of all opposition parties that every member will have 10 minutes to discuss the budget in the house,” Mr Durrani said, adding that Mr Hanif had already consumed 15 minutes.

MQM-P lawmaker demands reopening of beauty salons after male hairdressers are allowed to operate

The information minister’s utterances, which were not audible in the press gallery, however, added fuel to the fire as the disgruntled opposition MPA aggressively moved towards the treasury benches before other members from both sides rushed to prevent a fistfight.

Earlier, the house turned into a fish market when Grand Democratic Alliance member Nusrat Sehar Abbasi started shouting during the speech of ruling Pakistan Peoples Party member Ghazala Sial.

Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari, who was in the chair at that time, tried to calm down Ms Abbasi but to no avail as the GDA member kept standing and continued her protest over the remarks by the treasury members. She continued her protest almost during the entire session.

MQM-P member Mangla Sharma appeared so dismayed over the situation in the house that she said the hullabaloo had eventually become a parliamentary tradition in the assemblies.

In their budget speeches, most of the members from both sides mainly focused on defending and lauding their respective leadership and had little to say on the provincial budget.

‘Illegal budget’

Javed Hanif of the MQM-P said that the budget was illegal as it was presented in contravention of Article 140-A of the Constitution. He said the budget was also presented in violation of the Sindh Local Government Act 2013 as it made the establishment of a provincial finance commission mandatory.

“Whenever the federation wants to use its authority in Sindh, the PPP terms it an attack on the province but now they are holding the centre responsible for failure to tackle the Covid-19 and locust crises. “While the stunting rate in Sindh is 42 per cent, children are still dying in Thar and we have higher numbers of hepatitis and HIV patients, the Sindh government is claiming to be combating the novel coronavirus,” he added.

Terming the budget gimmicks of statistics, the MQM-P lawmaker said the provincial government showed an Rs18 billion deficit in the budget but the actual deficit financing amounted to Rs124bn. He explained that the budget document showed Rs20bn borrowing from banks in the receipts while Rs30bn was carry on cash savings and Rs31bn would be generated by selling state land.

18th Amendment ‘a binding force’

Burhan Chandio of the PPP criticised the federal government for its “miserable” performance and said that the gross domestic product (GDP) went into negative for the first time in the country’s history during the PTI rule. He said the 18th constitutional amendment was a binding force between the federation and its units. “Sindh knows how to get its share and we will get it,” he added.

‘Beauty parlours be reopened’

Mangla Sharma of the MQM-P said many working women were affiliated with beauty salons that had been closed since the imposition of lockdown. “Beauty parlours are run by women, a majority of staff there are also female, who are finding it difficult to feed their families,” she added.

She demanded that beauty parlours be opened immediately as male hairdressers and salons were operating.

Hailing certain aspects of the budget, she said the increase up to 10 per cent in government employees’ salaries and health risk allowance was very commendable. She said people who were in self-isolation were left alone.

GDA member slams federal govt

GDA MPA Sheharyar Khan Mahar came down hard on his own federal government for its “lethargic” attitude towards anti-corruption measures in Sindh. “Prime Minister Imran Khan had promised to take strict action against corrupt practices in Sindh, but nothing is visible on ground,” he added.

He said the people of the province were facing power loadshedding, adding that the PTI was not going to win from Sindh in the future if it did not take its issues seriously.

‘Copy and paste budget’

PTI’s Sidra Imran termed the budget just a “copy and paste” document, saying that it did not reflect necessities of the province. “Millions of children are out of school. As many as 83 per cent of the people do not have drinking water,” she said and added that 65 per cent of the revenue of the province was coming from the federation.

“The budget did not reflect as to how many new hospitals were built, how many new classrooms were established,” she said and added that the provincial government could spend only 33pc of the annual development budget, which showed how serious the provincial government was for uplift.

‘No funds for Karachi megaprojects’

Sarwat Fatima of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan said the Sindh government was known for making legislation but it had failed to implement its own laws. The provincial government had made considerable improvement in three hospitals — National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, National Institute of Child Health and Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre — but it would be left with nothing to show for its performance if those hospitals were taken over by the federal government.

Ms Fatima said the provincial government did not earmark funds for any megaproject for Karachi. She said we were left way behind in the transport sector as the PPP-led Sindh government had failed to bring in even a single bus in the last 12 years.

PPP’s Arbab Lutfullah, Syed Zulfikar Shah, Nida Khuhro, Shamim Mumtaz, Gayan Chand Israni, Syed Shah Hussain Shah Sheerazi, Shahid Thaheem, Ghazala Sial and Aijaz Shah Bukhari; PTI’s Dua Bhutto, Sheharyar Shar, Shahnawaz Jadoon and Deewan Sachand; and GDA’s Waryam Faqeer also spoke.

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