Women on reserved seats, opposition MNAs, and even some from the treasury benches, have been repeatedly asking the government to release developments funds to them, but with the next budget almost upon us, that has still not been done. That is four years these MNAs have gone without receiving funds – almost the entirety of the government’s tenure. It would have been a problem if the government was withholding funds from the representatives across the board, but it seems like it is discriminating on party lines – a serious case of misuse of power.

The Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab, who has been approached by several MNAs in the past over the issue, has given contradictory statements at different times. While talking to The Nation on Tuesday, he said that development funds could not be directly released to the MNAs, but at other times he has clearly and often talked of releasing funds to the requisite members. MNAs contend that they have been given verbal assurance by the minister, who has often said that, “this government has never refused funds for development programmes.” Official records show that no funds have been released over a 4 year period, but in a written response to an opposition MNA, the minister claimed that, “funds under Pak MDGs Community Development Programme and PM’s Global SDGs Achievement Programme have been released for execution of development schemes identified by 15 residents of an area or civil society organisation”.

The contradictions aside, the fact that this complaint has persisted over the entirety of the tenure means that there is some measure of truth to the story, and the government has shirked its responsibility to treat each citizen equally and favoured those constituents which come from districts with government MNA’s in charge.

The upshot of all this will be that the government is set to face strict opposition to its final budget plans. The opposition plans to raise this issue at the budget debate and considering it is the last budget of this tenure, it will do everything it can to hammer the point home. Given the growing acrimony between the opposition and the government, it can be fully expected that the budget debate will devolve into a bashing contest. It is a shame, since many MNAs are content just to receive funds for this year alone.