Umair Jalali describes long-drawn political uncertainty in Punjab
Although it was expected that the process of reasserting its Despicable political turmoil in Punjab dominance in Punjab would take quite a toll on PMLN but it was certainly not expected that matters would drag over for more than ten weeks completely disrupting the balancing tools parliamentary procedure is imbued with. Throughout these anxious weeks it appeared that no political party was willing to abide by the laid down regulations regarding political behaviour and kept trying to discomfit their opponents without realising the frightful consequences of such conduct. It has been noticed by most observers that the jilted segment of PMLQ was bent upon disrupting the situation come what may and was unwilling to accede to any solution. The lingering political crisis has effectively diminished signs of wide-ranging political compromise and this difficulty is not confined to Punjab only as it mirrors the national situation.
It was clearly visible that the PTI-led opposition groups are fully prepared to go to any length to throw spanner in political affairs and are bent upon bringing down the coalition set-up and is trying hard to reassert its political dominance in the country particularly Punjab that is widely acknowledged to be the barometer of political temperature in the country. The most worrying aspect is that all political elements are going full-throttle without evincing any concern for the economic welfare of the people. The situation has also become dire as there appears to be no chances of any solution coming to fore as by-elections on 20 provincial seats in Punjab are due next month that may further aggravate the political scenario.
It is more than manifest that the root of all such troubles lies in the ouster of PTI government through a no-confidence vote that it tried to avert through all possible means. Unfortunately, the PTI in opposition is unwilling to go the accepted way of opposing the new coalition parties in power and are creating a situation that may well make any solution untenable. The employment of extreme disrupting tactics were manifest throughout the election of Hamza Shehbaz as CM Punjab that took place only amidst much chaos, legal battles and violence in the provincial assembly triggered by PTI and PMLQ lawmakers, apparently on the directions of the speaker, who himself was a candidate for the top job.
More worrying was the fact that this election failed to end the political turmoil as the arbitrarily appointed governor refused to administer oath of office to CM Hamza Shehbaz and this could only materialise after an unprecedented event in which his oath of office was administered by the speaker of national assembly of Pakistan. The immediate difficulty faced the province was that the entire provincial administration remained paralysed for nearly two months, delaying important decisions. As if that were not enough, once again the opposition alliance led the province to chaos by stalling the presentation of the budget by protesting over ridiculous issues such as demanding that the Chief Secretary and IGP should apologise for not being present in the assembly.
The matters kept on deteriorating as the opposition alliance did not let provincial budget to be presented as the speaker of the provincial assembly refused to let it happen. The result was despicable as the budget session of the assembly had to take place outside the premises of the provincial assembly at Aiwan-e-Iqbal in Lahore. The budget was presented two days after the Punjab Assembly session was convened for the purpose, owing to the provincial government’s deadlock with the speaker. The result of the conflict between the government and the opposition has created large issues pertaining to the parliamentary modes of conduct and it may well become a tangle which may exacerbate the political relationship in the province.
A word or two about the Punjab budget that contains total outlay of Rs.3,226 billion in which the government allocated a hefty amount of Rs.685 billion under the Annual Development Programme (ADP) with a special focus on pro-poor initiatives and controlling inflation. No new tax has been imposed in the budget. In terms of development sectors, the highest allocation of Rs.272.6 billion was for the social sector, which includes Rs.172.5 5 billion for the health sector and Rs.64.56 billion for the education sector. Additionally, Rs.164 billion were allocated to infrastructure development, including Rs.80.8 billion for the roads sector.
The government’s flagship initiatives during the next fiscal have been proposed for Rs.100 billion for social protection (utility support programme) and Rs.31.5 billion for South Punjab alone. The other flagship projects included Rs.9 billion for Road Rehabilitation Programme, Rs.5 billion for land acquisition for development projects, Rs.1.35 billion for minority development and Rs.1.5bn for provision of laptops to students. The proposed budget envisages a wide range of subsidies and relief packages worth Rs.190.58 billion and around Rs.1.712 trillion for service delivery in various sectors , 20 per cent higher than the ongoing financial year’s Rs.1.428 trillion. TW