KARACHI - The lawmakers’ interest seemed to have died down on the fifth day of debate on the budget on Tuesday that lasted for almost six hours despite speeches by key parliamentarians by the treasury as well as opposition benches.

The situation came to such a pass that even Sindh Assembly Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza had to ask Opposition Leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan to keep sitting during the speech of Minister for Works Imdad Pitafi, but he refused to comply, saying that the minister had broken his fast in the afternoon, but he had to break his fast on time.

Earlier, the provincial assembly’s session began an hour and 15 minutes late from the scheduled time.

Speaking during the debate, MQM lawmaker Muhammad Hussain said that it was the 17th Sindh budget in his parliamentary life, and added that a drastic change had occurred in the intervening period.

“Earlier, it used to be a moment of pride for the lawmakers to participate in the budget debate and the government officials would also note down points mentioned in the budget speeches for improvement, but unfortunately this culture has faded now,” he regretted.

He said that the claims being made for presenting a tax free budget were due to the fact that there was no space left for new taxes in the budget.

“Despite expenditures of billions of rupees, there is no improvement in facilities for people of the province,” he said.

Labelling the budget discriminatory, member MQM Kamran Akhter said that it had led to increase in linguistic-based politics in the province.

He said that every time claims were made that the health budget had been increased, but unfortunately even 30 percent amount allocated last year was not spent. “There were no expenditures in the departments of two ministers,” he said, and added that even the higher court had ruled against the corruption of female leader of the party.

His speech was confronted by PPP MPA Ghulam Qadir Chandio, who equated the opposition members with a snake and said that those eyeing separation of Karachi from rest of the province would never succeed in their aims.

He also did not spare Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and said that if the revolution was to be brought through dance culture, then transgender persons would have their own country. His words were later expunged by the deputy speaker.

Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) lawmaker Nand Kumar said that the provincial government should have the courage to listen to criticism by the opposition.

He said that model Ayyan Ali had taken away all money of the provincial exchequer with her.

He said projects of the provincial government testified to the prevalence of culture of corruption in the province. “Sindh Education Foundation should be renamed as corruption foundation due to massive corruption in it,” he taunted.

Responding to his criticsm, newly elected PPP member Imtiaz Ahmed Shaikh said that tax free budget was a gift from the provincial government to the people of the province and the step to regularize 25000 lady health workers was the fulfilment of the vision of Benazir Bhutto.

“The chief minister has taken keen interest in improving development infrastructure of Shikarpur and has approved all schemes for the district,” he added.

Minister for Culture Syed Sardar Ali Shah said that in 2008-09, the total budget outlay was Rs200 billion and now the tax collection had reached up to Rs200 billion. “The federal government’s behaviour with the provincial government was unjust and the former had not even released Rs68 billion this year under the NFC,” he said.

Home Minister Sohail Anwer Siyal said that PPP had eliminated the culture of gunny bag bodies in Karachi and those who had killed innocent people and carried out 12 May massacre were known to everyone. “We have brought peace to the province and now situation has improved 95 percent,” he said, and added that the provincial government would recruit 10,000 policemen this year.

Speaking on the occasion, Local Bodies Minister Jam Khan Shoro said that it was a wrong perception that powers were not devolved to LG representatives.

“We are witness to past practices, when opposition lawmakers and LG representatives had initiated the politics of reconciliation,” he recalled.

“We have been giving special grant of Rs500 million to KMC every month, but unfortunately this institution was destroyed due to massive recruitments on political grounds in the past,” he said.