LAHORE - The Treasury passed its first test of maintaining the required numbers inside the House on the first day of discussion and voting on the budget allocations for different departments.

It got the budget allocations for two key departments, health and education, approved from the Assembly, thanks to the appeasement policy of the PTI government.

Since the announcement of the provincial budget, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar is having extensive rounds of meetings with party legislators to resolve their problems pertaining to their respective constituencies. Besides, the government is also running an efficient kitchen at the Assembly to provide for timely lunch and dinner for its members. But it is a temporary arrangement meant only for the budget session.

The government is taking this extra pain since the Assembly cafeteria offers snacks and drinks only. The National Assembly, on the other hand, has a full-fledged kitchen offering subsidized food to all the members.

The Assembly is now very close to passage of the annual budget and the supplementary one. It has reached this stage after a five-day laborious discussion on the budget estimates. During this period, it just kept on trucking without any concrete proposals to be included into the already announced budget. 

Interestingly, the Opposition has seemingly no objection to budget allocations made for most of the provincial departments. It is evident from its decision to submit cut motions only for five provincial subjects out of total 41. They include: Health, Education, Agriculture, Housing & Physical Planning and State Trading in Food grains and Sugar.

But, this is the result of a verbal agreement reached between the Treasury and the Opposition.  This arrangement is mutually beneficial and made every year during passage of the budget.

Under this deal, the Opposition will get sufficient time to speak on the proposed budget estimates for five budgetary allocations while the Treasury will have a smooth sailing in respect of rest of the departments. It also saves the Treasury from going through the unnecessary hassle of holding lengthy debate on the cut motions coming from the Opposition’s side. 

Following the completion of discussion and voting on cut motions, the Speaker applies guillotine to pass the remaining demands for grants in just half an hour. This is going to happen on Tuesday (today).   

Also, it is becoming quite clear with every passing day that Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi commands the respect of the Treasury and Opposition members alike. While the Treasury members are supposed to obey the Speaker in letter and spirit, one should not expect the same level of good behavior from the opposition benches. 

Tuesday’s Assembly proceeding was yet another testimony to the fact that Parvez Elahi has the guts to maintain order in the House. A complete bedlam prevailed in the House when Parvez Elahi took the chair for the second time. A naughty PML-N member, Imran Nazir was seeking more time from the Chairman Mian Shafi Mohammad who was not willing to oblige. All opposition members were in unison to support their colleague. This created the usual uproar beyond control of the chair.

In the meanwhile, Parvez Elahi took the chair and there was complete calm in no time. He stopped Saeed Akbar Niwani of the PTI from advising the opposition members on how the assembly business is conducted. “They are here in this Assembly for the last ten years and know the tricks of the trade. They know their job well. They know when to speak and when to go silent. They don’t need sermons from anybody on how to react in a particular situation”, the Speaker maintained. There was no further argument on the issue. All opposition members including Imran Nazir sat calmly in their seats. The House was in order again. 

Another important feature of Tuesday’s proceedings was an unusual episode rarely seen on the Assembly floor. Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid had to face embarrassment when the Speaker did not allow her to conclude the discussion on health allocations. She kept pleading for a while, but Parvez was adamant not to give her floor even for a minute or so. “You are just repeating the points already stated by the by the finance minister in his budget speech. It is now time for voting on the cut motions”, he uttered. The dejected Madam Minister had no option but to keep quite.