The provincial government on Wednesday finally presented its annual budget for the fiscal year 2022-23 after the treasury and opposition went their separate ways by holding separate Punjab Assembly sessions simultaneously as the two sides failed to resolve the deadlock owing to their differences.
The session chaired by Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari was held in Aiwan-i-Iqbal in Lahore, while the one chaired by Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi took place at the provincial legislature.
Both the government and the opposition rejected each other’s assembly sessions as “illegal” and devoid of constitutional sanction. However, the only thing common in the parallel sessions were the vacant chairs on the opposite sides of the treasury and the opposition benches.
It is also arguably the first time that two parallel sessions have been held prior to the approval of the budget.
In the session held in the Punjab Assembly, the opposition passed a resolution against the governor's ordinance that clipped the powers of the speaker and the provincial assembly secretary.
According to the ordinance, the notifications relating to summoning and prorogation of the provincial assembly would be issued by the secretary of the Punjab law and the parliamentary affairs department.
The ordinance also repealed several laws that gave judicial powers to the speaker to summon bureaucrats under the privilege act.
Punjab Governor Bagligh-ur-Rehman had prorogued the session in the Punjab Assembly and later summoned a new assembly session at Aiwan-e-Iqbal, declaring it to be the Punjab Assembly for the duration of the session.
However, the opposition rejected the governor’s prorogation order, terming the session in the Punjab Assembly as a continuation of the budget session.
Meanwhile, in the session held in Aiwan-e-Iqbal, a makeshift dice was set for the speaker on the stage.
Treasury members were seated on chairs on the middle and left side in front of the deputy speaker while the chairs on the far right side were designated for opposition members. As no opposition member came to the session, the chairs on the right side remained vacant throughout the session.
The treasury members gave a shout-out to Punjab Chief Minister as he took his seat in the front row. The provincial budget was presented by the PML-N MPA Sardar Awais Laghari who had been assigned to deal with financial matters.
After the conclusion of the budget speech, the deputy speaker adjourned the session till June 18 (Saturday).
Session in Punjab Assembly
On the other hand, the opposition-held a parallel session in Punjab Assembly presided by Elahi.
The opposition strongly condemned the conduct of Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz for illegally summoning a session of the house in Aiwan-e-Iqbal.
The opposition passed a resolution against the promulgation of the ordinance that had curtailed the powers of the speaker and the assembly secretary.
PTI leader Dr Yasmin Rashid submitted a privilege motion against PML-N minister Ataullah Tarar for making an 'obscene gesture' while he was leaving assembly chambers in the previous session.
The speaker referred it to the concerned committee which was to present its report within two months.
The house also prayed for the deceased PTI MNA Amir Liaquat, Malik Maqsood, allegedly a key figure in the money laundering case against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Dr Rizwan, a former director of the Federal Investigation Agency probing the money laundering case.
After the condolences ended, Speaker Elahi adjourned the session till Friday.
Speaking to reporters outside Punjab Assembly, Elahi termed the budget session in Aiwan-e-Iqbal as illegal. "The provincial assembly is an institution in which you cannot summon a new session if an existing session is still in continuation," he told reporters.
He said the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has dishonoured its oft-repeated slogan of respecting the mandate of the vote and had instead attempted to usurp the rights of the provincial assembly.
In his view, the governor's ordinance has weakened the institution of the provincial assembly. "There was no assembly secretary and staff in the session held by the government in Aiwan-e-Iqbal," he pointed out.
He said the deputy speaker had no authority to chair a session in the presence of the assembly speaker, he added.
Focus on uplift in Punjab’s Rs3.22tr outlay
The Punjab Assembly on Wednesday presented its budget for the fiscal year 2022-23 with a total outlay of Rs3.22 trillion – with a hefty amount of Rs685 billion reserved for development.
Held at Aiwan-e-Iqbal, the session was chaired by Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari whereas provincial Finance Minister Awais Leghari presented the budget.
Addressing the session, Leghari highlighted the "fast pace of development" during the tenure of the previous PML-N government.
He added that no development project was completed during the past three and a half years.
In its first annual budget, the present government allocated an amount of Rs685 billion under the Annual Development Programme, with a special focus on pro-poor initiatives and controlling inflation.
The budget did not propose any new tax.
In his budget speech, the minister said Punjab had estimated its total revenue collection at Rs2.52 trillion, under which Punjab would receive Rs2.02 trillion from the federal divisible pool. The province’s own resource revenue is estimated at Rs500.53 billion for FY 2022-23 — 24% higher than Rs405 billion in FY 2021-22.
Out of its own resource revenue, Leghari said the Punjab Revenue Authority's (PRA) collection target had been set at Rs190 billion with a 22% increase.
Similarly, he added that the Board of Revenue and Excise and Taxation Department targets had been set at Rs95 billion with a 44% raise and Rs43.5 billion with a 2% increase respectively.
He further said a 24% hike was estimated under the head of non-tax revenue, having a target of Rs163.53 billion for the FY 2022-23.
The government, he added, was going to allocate Rs435.87 billion for salaries of public sector employees, Rs312 billion for pensions and Rs528 billion for local governments.
Under the head of development, the highest amount of Rs272.6 billion has been allocated for the social sector, Rs172.55 billion for healthcare and Rs64.56 billion for education.
An additional Rs164 billion has been earmarked for infrastructure development that includes Rs80.8 billion to build roads.
Two days ago, the Punjab cabinet had approved a 30% increase in the salaries of government employees. It was also decided to follow the example of the federal government and merge all ad-hoc relief.
Similarly, the government had decided to provide a 15% disparity allowance and 15% additional salary, which would be available for the employees of certain government departments.
It had approved a 15% hike in pensions against the proposed increase of 5%.
In addition to approving the Annual Development Programme 2022-23, the meeting had also given the nod to the memorandum of understanding for providing free medicines to cancer patients.