LAHORE  -  Opening four-day debate on provincial budget at Punjab Assembly on Thursday, Opposition Leader Hamza Shahbaz focused more on the federal issues than the proposed allocations for the province during his long speech.

Minister for Industries Aslam Iqbal come hard on the Opposition Leader for his ‘irrelevant rhetorics’ instead of focusing the provincial budget.

The session started two hours and 10 minutes behind the scheduled time with Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi in the chair.  Unlike the Opposition that created rumpus during the budget speech of Finance Minister, the treasury legislators patiently listened the long speech of Hamza Shehbaz.

Hamza said the Prime Minister should have preferred visiting victims of PIA plane crash instead of meeting allies in Karachi. He questioned Rs900 million expenses on setting up isolation ward for virus patients at the Expo Centre as patients were suffering under scorching sun at various hospitals.

He said the PM continued terming the pandemic a minor flu to be cured by Panadol, ignoring repeated pleas by the medical fraternity to impose a lockdown in the country for curtailing spread of the virus and now six thousand people were getting infected daily.

He alleged that the government was telling lies on each issue as 40 per cent of crops have been destroyed due to locust against official claims that not much damage had been caused to the agriculture.

He criticised the government for not increasing salaries of the employees. He recalled that justice could not be provided to the victims of Sahiwal tragedy despite tall claims, while there were also no report about what happened to the sugar and flour inquiry reports. He said the National Accountability Bureau was overlooking the Peshawar metro bus scam and the project remained incomplete despite incurring Rs110 billion expenses.

He said the Supreme Court said that NAB has destroyed this country, while the so-called top corruption watchdog could not file a reference against him despite keeping him behind the bars for the last one year.

He said his party while in power in the centre had taken Rs10,000 billion loan in five years whereas the PTI government borrowed Rs10,000 billion in just one and a half years and unlike the former it could not initiate any big project with this huge borrowed money.

He recalled that the PML-N government had reserved 36 per cent share of the budget for South Punjab.  He said Local Government elections could not be held during the last two years though the relevant law has been amended multiple times and people are scrambling for getting even birth certificates as Union Councils (UCs) ceased to exist under the new law.

Mian Aslam Iqbal said that the opposition leader had not gone through the budget books as the former talked more on the federal government instead of the Punjab budget. He said the PTI government recruited doctors and nurses, while when the PML-N was in power, there were three patients on one bed in the hospitals.

Referring to the sugar scam, the minister said that out of 40 sugar mills seven were owned by the Sharifs and these units had yet to pay Rs780 million (to the growers). He also asked the opposition leader to disclose who devoured billions of rupees in the name of Sasti Roti scheme during the PML-N tenure.

PML-N’s Azma Bukhari walked out of the House when the chair reprimanded her for interrupting the speech of Mian Aslam Iqbal and asked her to go out if she could not control her. PPP’s Makhdoom Usman said that they had been suggesting that the treasury should sit with the opposition and find a solution to various problems facing the province. But, he said, the government was hiding itself behind coronavirus and blaming the pandemic for all its incompetency and poor policies.

Earlier, Law Minister Raja Basharat said that the opposition had caused chaos in the House during the presentation of the budget, while the treasury members were showing democratic attitude by not disturbing the opposition leader during his long speech.  He said the opposition leader should thank treasury benches for this treatment.

Lauding patience of the PTI lawmakers, the chair said that the opposition MPs in a meeting with him had apologized for the clamour during the budget speech. But, he suggested, it would have been better if they had apologized it in the House as well. The chair later adjourned the session till today (Friday) at 2pm.