Punjab’s Laghari finally presents Rs3.226b provincial budget at Awan-e-Iqbal session

Governor issues ordinance to revoke Punjab Assembly's independent status
<p>Punjab finance minister presents the provincial budget at the Aiwan-e-Iqbal instead of the provincial assembly. PHOTO: ONLINE</p>

Punjab finance minister presents the provincial budget at the Aiwan-e-Iqbal instead of the provincial assembly. PHOTO: ONLINE

PML-N MPA and Provincial Minister Awais Laghari has tabled Punjab Budget 2022-23 at a special session of the provincial assembly convened at the Aiwan-e-Iqbal after PA Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and the PTI stalled the budget session in the assembly for two days.

The budget was originally scheduled to be presented on Monday but for two days the session of the Punjab Assembly was marred with ruckus, sloganeering, and pandemonium.

Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman called the session at Aiwan-e-Iqbal and on Wednesday issued an ordinance to revoke the independent status of the Punjab Assembly.

The total outlay of the budget is Rs3,226 billion with an Rs683 billion development program, of which Rs240 billion will go to the South Punjab region. Most of the details of the Punjab budgets have already been published by SAMAA.

Minister Laghari announced the followed key measures for the next fiscal year 2022-23.

  • Health budget increases by 27% with an Rs470 billion allocation
  • Rs5 billion earmarked for PKLI
  • Rs1 billion for setting up the first nursing university in Punjab
  • Supply of free medicine for patients to resume from July 1
  • Education budget increases by 17% with an allocation of Rs485.26
  • Rs1.5 billion for new Danish schools
  • Allocations for the revival of other schools
  • Government employees get a 15% pay raise, with some getting an additional 15% allowance as well
  • Pensioner get 5% increment
  • Minimum wage for unskilled workers increased from Rs20,000 to Rs25,000 per month
  • No new tax on services
  • Rs528 billion for local governments
  • Rs685 billion for development
  • South Punjab region gets a 35% share in Annual Development Program
  • New rates for luxury house tax
  • Trauma center in Multan to be set up with Rs500 million
  • Rs2 billion to subsidize flour prices
  • Rescue 1122 ambulances to be stationed across several points
  • Free wifi service to be restored at public places, educational institutions
  • Women teachers, lady health workers, and female polio workers to get scooties
  • Govt to set up women hostels in Vehari, Muzaffargarh, and Rahim Yar Khan with Rs600 million
  • Rs53.32 billion for water projects including Rs800 million for the revival of small dams in the Potohar region
  • Rs80.77 billion for infrastructure development including the construction of roads and bridges.
  • Rs13.50 billion for ring roads in Multan and Sialkot
  • Water supply projects to be switched over to solar power

Laghari blasted the Usman Buzdar-led PTI government for scrapping several projects launched by the previous PML-N government.

Two parallel sessions

After the second day was wasted due to a stalemate between the government and the opposition, Punjab Governor Baligur Rehman, on Tuesday, issued a notification to suspend the session and called for a fresh one. However, the governor decided that Wednesday’s session was to take place in an Aiwan-e-Iqbal auditorium across the assembly, and not in the assembly’s hall.

Soon after the governor’s order, Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervaiz Elahi resumed the session after a delay of eight hours, which was already suspended by the governor, and adjourned it till 1pm Wednesday.

Wednesday’s session was chaired by Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari. Talking to SAMAA TV, Mazari said the governor has the right to call the session at any venue.

“The governor has passed the orders to the speaker to conduct the session but in the speaker’s absence, I will chair the session,” said Mazari.

Punjab Assembly’s independent status revoked

The Punjab governor Wednesday issued an ordinance revoking the independent status of the Punjab Assembly and handed over some of its powers to the law department, SAMAA TV’s Danish Munir reported.

Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman has issued an ordinance revoking Punjab Assembly’s independent status (Photo: SAMAA TV/ Danish Munir)
Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman has issued an ordinance revoking Punjab Assembly’s independent status (Photo: SAMAA TV/ Danish Munir)

All the decisions of the Assembly Secretariat will now be made by the Law and Parliamentary Affairs Department.

Punjab Assembly Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti has also lost the power to summon the session.

“Whenever Provincial Assembly of Punjab is summoned or prorogued, either by the Governor or the Speaker, Secretary to Government of the Punjab, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Department shall issue the notification regarding summoning or propagation of Punjab Assembly,” the ordinance stated.

PTI terms ordinances unlawful

Pervaiz Elahi and PTI leaders Mehmoodur Rashid and Raja Basharat, who was the law minister under PTI rule, held a press conference in the afternoon.

Basharat said the ordinances issued by the governor were unlawful as no ordinance could be promulgated while the assembly is still in session.

Elahi said the governor could not summon another session until an ongoing session is prorogued.

He said the Punjab Assembly had passed resolutions against the ordinances and that he will fight for the independence of the assembly on every platform.

Monday Session adjourned without budget presentation

For the first time in the province’s history on Monday, a Punjab Assembly’s budget session was adjourned without the budget having been tabled.

Before the start of the session, the opposition demanded an apology from Punjab police chief and chief secretary.

The opposition, comprising mostly of PTI and PML-Q members, led by Elahi demanded Punjab Inspector General Rao Sardar Ali and Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Fazal to appear before the opposition lawmakers and tender an apology for the violence that took place inside the assembly during the election for Punjab chief minister on April 16.

The opposition had also demanded quashing of first information reports (FIRs) against opposition leaders.

A meeting of the business advisory committee, comprising government and opposition members, held a moot to reach an agreement, but failed.

After a delay of eight hours, the opposition claimed that the government had accepted their demands and the provincial police chief and the chief secretary would apologise to the lawmakers.

As soon as the proceedings began after lengthy negotiations, they were abruptly halted as Speaker Elahi objected to the presence of PML-N leader Ataullah Tarar inside the hall.

The speaker ordered the assembly’s security to escort Tarar - who is not an assembly member - out of the hall. This led to another face-off between the treasury and the opposition members.

The proceedings were then adjourned for 10 minutes on the government’s request for Tarar to leave the house.

After Tarar left the house with his brother Bilal Tarar, the session resumed. However, Elahi once again demanded the chief secretary and the IG to appear before the house, saying that the “under no condition” the budget could be presented without the duo’s apology.

He threatened to adjourn the house if the government did not summon the two officials.

Violence in the assembly

On April 16, unprecedented violence took place inside the assembly as Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari chaired the session to elect the CM. The then government members threw lotas at Mazari and encircled him. One of the MPAs pulled his hair and others were seen taking shots at him. As the situation got out of control, Mazari was escorted to his chambers.

Subsequently, slogans were chanted by both the PTI and the PML-N members, while PTI members threw lotas at the opposition benches, leading to open altercations and fights.

To control the situation, a huge contingent of the police, led by Punjab SSP Operations, entered the assembly in civil clothes but later exited the hall after protest from Elahi.

However, the speaker left his seat after he got injured.

Following this, the session was held after the Anti-Riot Force entered the assembly.

The deputy speaker chaired the session on a microphone from his chambers and Hamza Shehbaz was elected as the chief minister.

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