LAHORE   -  Opposition had not come to the House yesterday with the promise of docility it had demonstrated during the first sitting of the present budget session.

Speaker Parvez Elahi had also not given any such guarantee to the Treasury for the budget day.

Consequently, Finance Minister Makhdum Hashim Jawan Bakht had to read out the budget document amid loud sloganeering and shouting by the angry Opposition. He was done with the budget speech in just 32 minutes breaking his own record of doing the same in 38 minutes last year.

This was also the shortest budget session and the shortest ever budget speech made in the recent history.

The session lasted only for 44 minutes.

In 2017, ex-Finance Minister Ayesha Ghous Pasha of the PML-N had taken one hour and 53 minutes to complete her budget speech. Also, the Speaker took the Opposition by surprise by starting the session at 3:26 pm, with a negligible delay of only 26 minutes.

The House was scheduled to meet at 3 pm for presentation of the provincial budget. In the past, however, the Assembly would never go into session [on budget days} that early. It is an acceptable norm at the Punjab Assembly to start its budget sitting with a delay of over two hours. The Opposition was still in the process of giving final touches to its strategy for the budget day when the Speaker took his seat in the House. There was a mad dash for entry into the House.

Around a dozen Opposition members surrounded the Speaker’s podium as the Minister started his budget speech.

A few Treasury members also got close to the Speaker with the obvious intent of averting any untoward situation.

But given the friendly attitude of the Speaker towards the Opposition, there was no likelihood of any such thing to happen on the day.

Parvez Elahi turned a deaf ear to the Opposition’s protest as he looked straight at the Finance Minister.

For him, it was a usual ritual performed by the Opposition every year. He did not even bother to perform the formality of asking the Opposition to maintain decorum.

There was nothing new in Opposition’s mode of protest also. It did not come up with any innovation except for the usual hullabaloo. As per their past practice, some aggressive members tore apart copies of the budget documents. All this now seems a routine affair in any House.

Finance Minister’s entire speech was like a bag of goodies for the children. He remained focused on all the good initiatives taken by his government. According to him, the new budget has a special focus on social sector development and targeted interventions for human development in line with the PTI manifesto. There was no mention of the new taxation measures introduced by his government.

Under the new taxation system, the government has brought the doctors, Hakims, Homeopaths, Stockbrokers, money changers, contractors, property dealers and builders under the tax net.

After the sitting was over, the Opposition lawmakers were expected to gather at the Assembly stairs to register yet another protest against the government.

But this did not happen yesterday. Maybe, they felt really done in after their ‘performance’ inside the House.