The Punjab government failed to present the provincial budget for fiscal year 2022-23 due to severe deadlock between the treasury and opposition benches on Monday.
It was unprecedented in the parliamentary history of the Punjab Assembly that the government couldn’t present the provincial budget due to political stalemate between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), while Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi was seen as the main player of this entire saga.
It all started from the meeting of the business advisory committee, where the deadlock was first witnessed. The PTI and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) were adamant that both the chief secretary and the Punjab Police inspector general (IG) must be summoned in the House and they should tender an apology to the provincial lawmakers who faced police crackdown during last few weeks. However, the PML-N was reluctant to call both the officers in the House. Multiple rounds of talks were held between the government and the opposition, but the deadlock persisted and the session could not be held for six hours.
When the session began, former minister for law and parliamentary affairs Raja Basharat pointed out that the chief minister and the chief secretary were not present, which was against the tradition of the House. “Don’t allow the budget to be presented in the House until the CM and the bureaucracy are here,” Basharat asked the chair. It was also seconded by Mian Aslam Iqbal. Speaker Elahi said the demand of the opposition was absolutely correct.
Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Malik Ahmad said that the CM and the chief secretary would arrive once the budget speech was allowed by the speaker. As this issue was being discussed, senior PTI lawmaker Ch Zaheeruddin created another problem for the government when he raised a question over Attaullah Tarar’s presence in the House. Zaheer argued that although Tarar was a provincial minister, he was not a member of the House. Taking action, Elahi directed the assembly security staff to force Tarar to leave the House.
The sergeant-at-arms were going towards Tarar when the PML-N lawmakers surrounded him and he refused to leave the House. Severe chaos was witnessed in the House at this point. The speaker adjourned the session for 10 minutes, warning Tarar to leave. The 10-minute break was further prolonged for over an hour but Tarar was still in the House when Elahi came back to chair the proceedings. Later, Tarar left the House.
Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz arrived in the House at 10:30pm and was accorded a resounding welcome by the treasury benches.
When Tarar left, Elahi once again asked about the IG and the chief secretary but they were not present in the officers’ gallery. “Their presence will ensure the sanctity of the house,” he said. Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Malik Ahmad made repeated attempts to convince the speaker to allow the finance minister to present the budget speech but in vain.
Dr Yasmin Rashid said that PTI workers and lawmakers faced police brutality during the ‘Azadi March’ and, therefore, the IG should be summoned. Similar views were expressed by other PTI MPAs, including Mian Aslam Iqbal, Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed, Murad Ras and Sabtian Khan.
“They (government) used the IG and the CS against us and, therefore, they are now reluctant to summon them,” said Mian Aslam Iqbal in his fiery speech.
Law Minister Malik Ahmad Khan said that the IG and the CS will be summoned after the government presents the budget.
Sardar Awais Laghari, who was assigned the duty to present the budget, said that there is no provision in the constitution that can bar him from presenting the budget. However, the speaker ruled that the proceedings will not continue until the government ensures their presence.
Later, he adjourned the house to meet again today (Tuesday) at 1pm.
Talking to the media outside the assembly, newly appointed Opposition Leader Sabtain Khan said that budget couldn’t be presented due to the government’s stubbornness.
Raja Basharat said that it is a failure of the government that it couldn’t present the budget. Sardar Awais Laghari said that it is violation of the constitution that he wasn’t allowed to present the budget.