LAHORE - The Punjab Assembly on Thursday witnessed opposition members complaining yet again about the alleged discrimination in distribution of resources among the districts and inordinate delay in completion of development projects in South Punjab.

On the fourth day of the pre-budget debate, the members agitated the issue of absence of finance minister and his parliamentary secretary for the second time. They reiterated that there was no point in holding the debate if the two are not present in the House to take notes of suggestions from the lawmakers.

During the question hour, Muhammad Amir Iqbal Shah of PML-N pointed out that unlike the practice in remote districts of Punjab, construction of roads in Lahore took two to three months only and the development projects in upper Punjab also got completed with the same pace. But when it comes to South Punjab, the development projects take years to compete, he added.

In the pre-budget debate, Khawaja Nizamul Mehmood, a PPP lawmaker form DG Khan, grumbled that his district had the same right on development projects as those of Lahore and Rawalpindi. He stressed that Government should not discriminate between the far flung areas and those close to the provincial metropolis.

Fauzia Ayub Qureshi, a PML-N legislator from Bahawalpur suggested that funds be specified in the next budget for initiation of water supply schemes in the water-starved Cholistan.     

However, Punjab Minister for Communication and Works, Tanvir Aslam Malik did not agree with members’ contention on unfair distribution of funds among the districts. He said development projects were being carried out across Punjab without any discrimination. He said Government would utilize Rs 115 billion under the head of development till 30th June, 2015.

The minister also told the House that Khadim-e-Aala Rural Road Programme would start this week with an estimated cost of Rs 100 billion and would be completed till 2018.   

Nizamul Mehmood of PPP agitated the issue of finance minister’s absence from the House during the pre-budget debate. “We come to attend Assembly session covering 300 miles of distance to raise the issues of our electorate. But we hardly find any minister in the House to listen to our grievances”, he moaned.

Amir Sultan Cheema of PML-Q also joined him to highlight the issue. “The ministers are not taking chair’s directions seriously as they don’t come to the Assembly to become part of the pre-budget debate”, he addressed to the Acting Speaker who, in turn, asked senior provincial minister Raja Ashfaq Sarwar to respond.

While agreeing to the point raised by the opposition members, Sarwar asked the chair to extend the debate till Friday. In the meanwhile, Finance Minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman made his appearance in the House. But, by that time, the Acting Speaker had made up his mind to adjourn the sitting till Friday.  

Earlier, before start of the budget debate, ruling party legislator Rashida Yaqoob told the House about a firing incident at her DHA house which took place on Wednesday. She said two of her security guards were seriously injured and were under treatment in hospital. She pleaded that she and her family had serious security threat and the Government should make arrangements for security.

Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman, who also holds the portfolio of law, assured the lady legislator that government would probe the matter and protect the family.