Govt bows to pressure: Allocations for AJK, GB revised

PM's advisor says revisions made upward to meet development demand in regions

The federal government on Tuesday bowed to pressure from the two federally administered territories of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, agreeing to revise their budgetary allocations to match their demands.

This was announced by the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira during a news conference alongside Federal Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal in Islamabad on Tuesday.

Kaira’s announcement came after both Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB) had objected to the reduced allocations for the two territories in the federal budget. The former had even gone as far as to taunt Islamabad and offered to sacrifice their entire allocation should that be the center’s need.

Addressing the news conference at the Press Information Department on Tuesday, Kaira said that the budgetary allocations for the two territories had been revised as per the directives of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

“The Planning and Finance Divisions have revised the budgetary allocations for AJK and GB, Kaira said, adding that allocations for both have been enhanced to meet the needs of their developmental projects.

The advisor added that the decision to enhance the allocations was made after a meeting with stakeholders from AJK and GB.

He sought to dispel the impression that the federal government had cut the budgets of GB and AJK when the federal budget was presented. At the moment, the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf is in power in GB and AJK.

Kaira noted that this notion was communicated to PM Shehbaz who took notice of the matter.

Noting that both AJK and GB are lagging behind other provinces while facing a dearth of resources, Kaira reiterated the center’s commitment to improving the living standards of people of these regions.

“We will continue to give preference to the progress and development of AJK and GB, not only at par with the rest of the country but even more than that,” he said.

No budget unless cuts reversed

Days after the federal government presented the budget, AJK’s cabinet - led by AJK Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Khan - decided not to present its annual budget for the fiscal year 2022-23, unless the central government does not reverse its decision to impose cuts on the region’s development budget.

“AJK is the base camp of Kashmir’s liberation struggle and in view of its great importance especially in terms of defence the region cannot afford budgetary cuts,” Tanveer said. He maintained that the federal government must be informed about the region’s sensitive nature and the situation arising out of budget cuts.

Acting President Chaudhry Anwarul Haq, who was attending the meeting, said that budget cuts would have a negative impact on the region. Cabinet members present on the occasion said that Kashmiris have already made sacrifices for Pakistan.

“If Pakistan is still in need of our sacrifices then the federal government should stop the entire budget,” they said.

Members attending the meeting decided to raise their voices in unison on the issue of budget cuts.

Budgetary allocation

During his budget speech, Federal Finance Minister Miftah Ismail told the National Assembly that the development allocation for provinces and special areas - including AJK and GB - had been increased to Rs136 billion.

Moreover, grant allocations for AJK and GB listed in the budget documents showed that Rs59.5 billion had been allocated for AJK and Rs47 billion had been allocated for GB.

However, the government had cut the development allocation for the Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan Division in the PSDP from Rs69.96 billion in 2021-22 to zero in the upcoming fiscal year.

The budget documents further showed that in the outgoing fiscal year, the government had only released Rs45.899 billion for the division.

New wave of violence

Kaira also condemned the murder of innocent civilians in Indian Illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIoJK) in the past three days.

Stating that a new wave of violence is sweeping the people of IIoJK again, Kaira said that all such tactics cannot deflate the courage of Kashmiri brothers and sisters.



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