The Punjab government on Monday received serious flak from the opposition for allegedly neglecting the education sector, using Zakat and Baitul Maal funds for promoting ‘Sasti Roti politics’ and spending millions on entertainment rather than providing real relief to the poor.
Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, son of PML-Q Punjab president and former Chief Minister, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, in his post-budget speech in the Punjab Assembly, lambasted the provincial government for its “failure to control lavish expenses, particularly of the CM’s Secretariat as Rs 270 million was on it spent instead of last year’s approved Rs 120 million.”
He flayed burdening the provincial exchequer with an additional Rs 150 million in the ‘Shahbaz Raj.’ Equally supported by his party members, the junior Chaudhry also slated the alleged misuse of powers and resources by the Punjab government and termed the budget a visionless and incomplete document carrying nothing for the poor.
The PA proceedings started with a delay of a few minutes with Deputy Speaker Rana Mashood Ahmed Khan in the chair. PPP MPA Abdul Qadir Gillani, son of Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, on a point of order, congratulated the Pakistan cricket team for its historic victory in the Twenty-20 Cricket World Cup and told the House that a special reception would be held for the team by the federal government.
Senior Punjab Minister Raja Riaz Ahmed, on a point of order, hailed the spirit shown by people on the 56th birth anniversary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. He also praised PML-Q MPA Samina Khawar Hayat and her husband for donating blood on the occasion.
Later, Moonis Elahi was given the floor to start his speech for the budget. From the very outset of his speech, the junior Chaudhry was critical of the PML-N led Punjab government for its bad governance and inability to provide relief to the poor population of the province.
Moonis Elahi said it was really awful that the Punjab government had sacrificed the provincial education budget at the altar of its whimsical and extravagant spending of public funds. He said the reduction of Rs 10 billion in the educational budget and use of the money to “foot the CM’s plane and chopper flying bills were tantamount to destroy the already fragile education sector of the province.”
He said that anti-education policies of the Shahbaz government had resulted in a steep decline of provincial literacy and enrolment rates. Coming hard on the provincial government for “fooling the nation” in the name of ‘Sasti Roti,’ he said even in Gawalmandi, the home constituency of the Sharifs, a Tandoor working in Bismillah Hotel was selling Roti at Rs 3, a clear proof of the government’s inefficiency and failure.
He said had subsidy on wheat been offered instead of spending millions of rupees on the promotion and publicity of ‘Sasti Roti,’ the entire population of the province could have benefited.
He said the use of Zakat and Baitul Maal funds for fraudulent ‘Sasti Roti politics’ was another example of the misuse of power and resources and equivalent to murdering and depriving the innocent. Criticising the Punjab government for setting up many task forces, he said the PML-N government was spending billions of rupees in the province on these task forces, which “comprised incompetent and unelected favourites.
He said these task forces were a huge burden on public resources and were a proof of the difference between claims and deeds of the Shahbaz government. He said that Rs 35 million was allocated for ìthe gift and entertainment budgetî of the Punjab government last year but the government had spent Rs 100 million.
He said that the poor population of the province was making its both ends meet with great difficulty and asked that for whose entertainment Rs 100 million had been spent by the government.
Earlier, PPP legislator Azma Bokhari on a point of order also demanded explanation from Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan for the poor coordination of Punjab Health Department on the eve of Benazir Bhutto’s 56th birth anniversary.
However, Raja Riaz Ahmed and not Rana Sanaullah on the occasion said if the honourable member had any complaint, she must inform him. This could not satisfy Azma who insisted that Rana Sanaullah to explain the reason of this cooperation before the entire House. Nevertheless, Deputy Speaker Rana Mashood asked Azma to let the budget proceedings continue and let the senior minister settle the issue.
PPP legislator from Attock, Shahan Malik on a point of order informed the House that the forests in Kala Chita Range were on fire and proper attention must be paid by the Forest department. He said the stealing of wood had become a common routine there and whenever any notice was taken, the forests were deliberately set on fire which was really shocking. Deputy Speaker Rana Mashood on the occasion said the matter was really very important and asked the Minister concerned (Ahmed Ali Aulakh) to acquire report of it.
Asif Manzoor Mohal, a PML-N MPA from Bahawalnagar hailed the Punjab government for presenting a public-friendly budget. He suggested that an agricultural university should be established in Bahawalpur, which would yield very positive results for the agricultural sector for the entire belt of southern Punjab.
Makhdoom Irtiza, a PPP legislator from Rahimyar Khan in his budget speech stated that allocation of Rs 43 billion for police would not help improve the Thana culture. He said during the last tenure of PML-Q, a lot allocation was made for the police and it was well equipped but it could not change the traditional Thana culture.
He further said that allowance for MPAs should also be increased. Besides, a privilege motion moved by PML-Q MPA Samina Khawar Hayat was disposed of.