LAHORE - The Treasury in Punjab Assembly Tuesday delivered a knockout blow to the Opposition dashing its hopes of blocking approval of the provincial budget.

While the Opposition remained watchful in the last two days looking for an opportunity to challenge the voice vote, the Treasury managed to get all the budgetary allocations approved by the assembly. All the cut motions moved by the Opposition were voted out through majority vote without any problem.

The PTI government made it possible by ensuring maximum presence of its legislators inside the House. Punjab Opposition led by Hamza Shahbaz Sharif had earlier claimed to obstruct passage of the budget which it believed was anti-people.

But in the process, the Treasury also played a trick on the Opposition, depriving it of the opportunity to move cut motions on the last two budgetary allocations.

The Treasury had earlier agreed to allow the Opposition to move cut motions and have debate in respect of demands for grants for five departments. Monday and Tuesday were meant for passage of the budget estimates preceded by discussion on the cut motions.

Opposition was supposed to move three more cut motions but speaker restricted them to only one saying they should have completed the process by 5 pm

Opposition members consumed one day (Monday)   discussing the government allocations for health and education departments. They were supposed to move three more cut motions on Tuesday, but the speaker restricted them to only one taking the plea that they should have completed the process by 5 pm.

But how could they sum up a lengthy process in an hour or so when the session started with a delay of one hour and 14 minutes.

Waris Kallu of the PML-N rightly argued that they could not meet the 5pm deadline because the session started late after 4pm instead of its stipulated time of 3 pm. But the speaker was not in a mood to accommodate Opposition this time. Mr Kallu was surely disappointed as the speaker had never rejected any of his pleas before. Opposition members later grumbled about not being given a fair chance to speak on the budget.

Outside the Assembly, Punjab Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Raja Basharat claimed decisive victory over the Opposition saying it had miserably failed to block passage of the budget. In his usual interaction with the media, the minister stressed the point that it had happened for the first time in the history that opposition could present only three cut motions for discussion. “In the past, however, the Opposition leader would speak on budget for two or three days instead of two hours [this time]”, he scored a point. “This shows the Opposition has no concern with the public issues as it was more concerned about their own problems”. The minister also recalled that Opposition had challenged to stop the government from passing budget but it happened also for the first time that the House approved 41 demands for grants within one hour.

Earlier, before passage of the budgetary proposals for 2019-20, it was unusual to see the Punjab cabinet meeting in the assembly cafeteria with Chief Minister Usman Buzdar in chair. In the recent history of Punjab Assembly, the cabinet never met at the cafeteria, a place meant only for having snacks and tea. It was a brief meeting which approved amendments in the finance bill seeking withdrawal of the proposed sales tax on buses plying on inter-city routes.

Later on, the chief minister also attended the assembly session for 27 minutes. Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz chose not to come to the House during this time. He joined the proceedings after the chief minister had left the assembly.