LAHORE - The Punjab Assembly on Monday opened debate on the provincial budget 2014-15 with traditional criticism by the Opposition and songs of praise by the Treasury.

First day of the ninth session of the PA kicked off the proceedings 90 minutes late with Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan in the chair.

Leader of the Opposition Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed hardly found anything therein worthy of public welfare, and said the whole budget document was prepared by the secretaries and handed over to the Finance Minister only to read out to the House. He mentioned about billions of rupees loans on the Punjab government which he explained undermined the government’s claim of presenting record amount budget.

Mian in his 90-minute long speech expressed total dissatisfaction with the budgetary outlay for the education. He said the federal government’s assertion to spend Rs273 billion on education uplift and major chunk of it on Punjab is quite inane as 80 percent of it would go to pay the salaries and be pocketed by the officialdom while the rest 20 percent would not work any wonder in this regard.

Quoting figures, he said that of 47,958 schools of Punjab only 18 percent had facilities while 10 per cent of them did not have even availability of potable water, and 6.5 percent schools were housed in a single room. According to an IPS report, he said, 12 million kids in Punjab were of school going age but their enrolment does not appear priority of the government. He said not metro buses, underpasses or flyovers but education is the principle means of progress and development of a country. He also picked up holes in the spending on Daanish Schools and suggested that the money was not properly used which implied that most of it went to the pockets of individuals. He was surprised at the allocation of Rs2 billion again for the Daanish Schools. He showed serious concerns at the non-academic duties of teachers and said their engagement to various programmes like anti-dengue and anti-polio drives was not beneficial for the education sector.

For him, energy production with coal won’t create environmental hazards only but would cost much in terms of freight on transportation from other countries also. Thus, it will oblige raise in tariff and financial burden on the poor. Therefore, he raised an eyebrow on the allocation of Rs31 billion for energy production through thermal means and vehemently pleaded for construction of Kalabagh Dam. He lamented the PML-N had been a strong voice for KBD construction but this party despite having government in Punjab and Centre, kept quiet on it over the last year. He said Punjab should have asked the Centre for playing a role for developing political consensus on its construction but it remained mum. He also suggested for exploiting up to 20,000cc water flow of water in the Link Canals to generate electricity which he estimated upto 200mw.

On the occasion, PML-N’s Asghar Ali Munda and Abdul Razzaq Dhillon belied what Mian Rasheed said, and termed the budget pro-poor, balance, and visionary. Both spoke in praise of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif in bombastic words and said, it was their acumen and farsightedness that such a remarkable budget has been framed.

PML-N member Dr Ayesha Ghaus gave an objective view of the budget through highly convincing language and on the basis of fact and figures. She appreciated the budget as reformatory and said, the outlay of structural development and social sector will attract huge foreign investment to make it contribute 17 percent to the total growth rate of Punjab. She said the budget was public welfare oriented and purported to ease life of the common which was rudimentary to the national development.

PPP’s Qazi Saeed grilled the government for not fulfilling the promise of ending power loadshedding with three months but made the people suffer even longer hours of outages than the past. He also criticised the government for not controlling price hike.

Treasury member Uzma Bokhari, Mian Muhammad Rafiq, Mahmood Qazi Leghari, Mian Naseer Ahmad, Nazar Hussain, Asif Bajwa, Nadia Aziz, Amanullah Niazi, Muhammad Anees Qureshi, Mian Tariq Mahmood, Ch Yasin Sohal, Mian Irfan Shadikhel, Muhammad Ghayyasuddin, Ashraf Abdul Qadir, Rana Munawar Ghaus, and other spoke in favour of budget while Waqas Hassan Akhtar Mokal of the PML-Q opposed the budget. General discussion on the budget will resume at 10 am on Tuesday (today).

Monitoring Adds: PPP submitted a resolution in the Punjab Assembly in favour of Operation Zarbe-e-Azab, reported a private TV channel. The resolution was moved by PPP MPA Faiza Malik. It was stated in the resolution that every single person of the nation stands with Pakistan Army in war against terrorism.  A tribute is being given to those security personnel who have sacrificed their lives for the motherland in war against terrorism.