PA budget session continues at Aiwan-e-Iqbal sans opposition

Journalists stage walkout from press gallery against Parvez Elahi’s conduct

The general discussion on the Punjab budget for fiscal year 2022-23 began in the session of the Punjab Assembly at Aiwan-e-Iqbal in the absence of opposition lawmakers on Saturday.

According to the traditions of the Punjab Assembly, the general discussion on the budget begins with the opening speech of the leader of the opposition.

When the session started with the panel of chairman, Khalil Tahir Sandhu, in the chair, he invited opposition leader Sibtain Khan to deliver his speech. “He (Sibtain) told us that he would attend the session to deliver his speech,” Sandhu, who hails from the Christian community, said while waiting for the opposition leader.

“We’ll wait for him for 15 minutes,” said the chair.

However, the leader of the opposition didn’t turn up as the opposition is holding its parallel session in the Punjab Assembly these days.

When the opposition leader didn’t appear, the chair invited MPA Muawia Azam, the parliamentary leader of Rah-e-Haq party to start discussion on the budget.

“History will never forgive the opposition over its attempt to derail democracy,” said Muawia Azam in his speech. He was of the view that agriculture land in Punjab is fast diminishing and there is a dire need to craft a policy in this regard.

He proposed that around 32 million students aged between 15 and 29 years should be encouraged to start business to generate revenue. “The higher education (sector) should be treated like the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) and the budget for education must be enhanced,” he added.

In his speech, MPA Makhdoom Usman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) said that Punjab local bodies must be restored immediately to resolve the issues facing the people.

Finance Minister Sardar Awais Laghari said that the old system of local governments has been restored and soon the notification issued in this regard would be tabled for discussion.

PML-N MPA Shiekh Allaud Din said that there were severe irregularities in the health card scheme and it should be investigated. He further demanded a fair audit of the Pakistan Supper League (PSL) organized during the previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. “Cricketers belonging to B or C class were invited and millions of rupees were spent, which bore no fruit,” he said. “What objective Pakistan has achieved through this?” he asked.

MPAs Aunaiza Fatima, Ishrat Ashraf and Mehwish Sultana also participated in the general discussion on budget.

Earlier, the session started after a delay of more than one-and-a-half-hour from its scheduled time.

At the outset of the session, journalists staged a walkout from the press gallery against the conduct of Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi. The newly elected President of Press Gallery Ikhlaq Bajwa was put off-air by his channel on the behest of Elahi when he demanded access of journalists to the Punjab Assembly secretariat.

The chair constituted a committee of MPAs, who persuaded journalists to call off their protest. Later, a committee of the house was constituted to address the grievances of journalists. MPAs Azma Bukhari, Nadeem Bara and Rana Afzal will be the member of the committee. Former Lahore Press Club president Arshad Ansari, Punjab Assembly Press Gallery Secretary Hassaan Ahmed and President Punjab Union of Journalists Ibrahim Lucky will represent the journalists in the committee.

In the meanwhile, Punjab Assembly acting Secretary Amir Habib issued a notification to the employees to attend the session being held at Aiwan-e-Iqbal.

In the notification, the legislation, reporting, estate and security wing staff has been directed to come to Aiwan-e-Iqbal. A stern action will be taken in case of non-compliance, said the notification.