LAHORE: Members of the Punjab Assembly belonging to treasury and opposition benches have unanimously urged the government to shift its focus from other projects to the agriculture sector, as it was the only sector that could give threefold economic results.
The Punjab Assembly’s budget debate session on Thursday under the chair of its panel chairman Dr Asad Ashraf started 75 minutes late from its schedule time of 10am. Soon after recitation from the holy Quran and naat, the House offered special prayers for the late legendary musician Mehdi Hasan Khan, who passed away on Wednesday.
Later, participating in the budget debate, parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) Makhdoom Syed Ahmad Mehmood said that due to mismanagement and embezzlement in the provincial budget funds, Punjab was facing severe economic problems. He also complained that funds allocated for various projects, as per the requirements of the poor people of Punjab, were not released.
He said that bureaucracy was also not using the allocated funds honestly, which was the major reason of poverty and lack of development in the province.
Mehmood said that Punjab has a base on agriculture, and the provincial government could get three times better economic results than other development sectors, after a three-month investment only in this sector.
He also urged the government to introduce laser-leveller scheme and provide cows of good breed at the union council level.
The PML-F leader further said that all democratic forces in the country must unite to establish a unanimous and consistent interim government to hold the next general elections.
He also emphasised on peaceful transfer of power after completion of present democratic government’s tenure of five years.
Another treasury member, Ahmad Khan Baloch, endorsed the suggestions and said that the government should focus more on the development of the agriculture sector. Continuing the subjects discussed by the predecessors of treasury, opposition members, including Ahmad Hasan Dahar, Shaukat Basra, Makhdoom Irtaza, Seemal Kamran and Humaira Awais Shahid, also highlight the need of a powerful agriculture sector, as it is the backbone of the provincial economy. Dahar from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), emphasising on the development of the agriculture sector, blamed bureaucracy, not politicians, for foiling pro-people development schemes of the government, like Sasti Roti and Food Support Programme.
The PPP member criticised the failure of the Planning and Development Department, saying that a department that could not even plan to introduce a car parking in its building could not give better plans for the development of the entire province. He also said that the government had continued some projects without ascertaining their feasibility.
Irtaza from the PPP said that though the Punjab government had already increased budget for police, but the ‘Thana Culture’ had not been changed. He also criticised the debt policy of the provincial government and said that its foreign debt had soared to Rs 353 billion, while the internal debts had reached Rs 16 billion.
Seemal Kamran from the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) declared the Bus Rapid Transit System in Lahore a copy of the Mass Transit System – an idea introduced by the previous government of Pervez Elahi. The PML-Q’s vocal member further said that Malik Raiz of Bahria Town had given funds of Rs 850 million for Ashiana Housing Scheme of the Punjab government, while this scheme’s land belonged to the government. She asked why the government was collecting Rs 1.2 million from the poor people for providing houses in the scheme.
It is worth mentioning here that due to some non-parliamentary remarks of a treasury member and parliamentary secretary, Abudur Razaq Dhilloon, against President Asif Ali Zardari, opposition members, especially the PPP members, started chanting slogan against the Sharif brothers. Later, on the pointing of quorum by the opposition, the chair adjourned the budget session for 9am today (Friday).