KARACHI   -  The Sindh government planned to get the budget for nine months of the fiscal year 2018-19 passed from the provincial assembly on Saturday, but a three-hour long speech of the opposition leader spoiled the plan.

Everything was going according to the plan and then Opposition Leader in Sindh Assembly Firdous Shamim Naqvi, who was the last speaker before chief minister’s speech, made a three-hour long speech, forcing the speaker to adjourn the session for Sunday (today).

As per the rules, Saturdays and Sundays are not designated for provincial assembly sessions, but the ongoing session continued on Saturday and will continue on Sunday as well because the provincial government has to pass the budget before October 1 because it had authorised the expenditure only for first three months of the fiscal year when it passed the budget in June this year.

Naqvi, who was the last speaker of the day, took more than three hours, including breaks for chocolates to maintain his sugar level and protest after interruptions from treasury benches to force him to finish his budget speech.

The speech not only irritated the treasury lawmakers but also forced the chief minister, who was waiting for his turn to speak as the last speaker, to pack up before the speaker prorogued the session.

During his marathon speech, Naqvi said that everyone from the treasury was talking about achievements of the provincial government, but nobody was shedding light on reasons as to why they were far behind even Bangladesh, which was once part of Pakistan and called East Pakistan.

Reading out paragraphs from the manifesto of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Naqvi said that most of the points on the PPP and PTI manifestos were the same and even if they choose different paths their ultimately goal was progress and prosperity of the country.

“Will someone shed light on where we started our journey 10 years ago and which point we are at right now?” he asked the treasury benches.

He asked the chief minister to prioritize elimination of hunger as a mission and work on it unless every person in the province gets at least two meals a day.

“I can ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to divert Rs500 billion funds to Sindh for betterment of Karachi,” he said. He said that people of Karachi and other parts of Sindh are not poor and they can accomplish this goal on their own if the government develops a strategy in this regard.

He said that Karachi is economic lifeline of the country and it can contribute to the country’s progress if its basic issues of water scarcity and infrastructure are resolved. Highlighting the state of education in the province, he said that other than out-of-school children, a lack of infrastructure and incompetent teachers are main issues facing the province. “Incompetent teachers are ruining our entire generation,” he lamented.

The NICVD is an exemplary project of the Sindh government, but there is no process on disposal of hospital waste, he said. He shamed the treasury lawmakers for claiming to getting water to their residences in Karachi through tankers and said it was a shame that they were unable to ensure water to their residences through pipelines despite being in power for the last 10 years.

He urged the PPP not to politicize the BISP project and said that it had served people at the grass root level and helped in alleviation of poverty. He criticized the provincial government and bureaucracy for repeating schemes and revising their estimates multiple times. “Instead of bureaucrats, the budget should go through the standing committees and professional accountants to fill the gaps in money expenditure,” he said.

The opposition leader also called for raising taxes and expanding the tax net. “Why there is no taxation on 120 yards property in upscale areas of the city?” he asked. He said that tax is not being collected properly due to fake evaluation by officials on the ground. He called for expanding the tax net in the agriculture sector and ensuring proper collection. He also demanded a cut on expenditure of Chief Minister’s House and Governor’s House and said that over 300 buses could be purchased from the saved amount.

Speaking about accountability, the opposition leader said the public accounts committee should be given to the government for proper accountability, while standing committees should be properly made functional for better lawmaking process.

Former chief minister Qaim Ali Shah said that they would not allow anyone to withdraw 18th Amendment to the Constitution and said that what they had been given could not be withdrawn.

He complained that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif did not honour his promise to provide Rs12.5 billion for the Karachi operation.

Minister for Education Syed Sardar Shah said that unfortunately everyone criticized his department but nobody was ready to take ownership. “I am taking the ownership and will enroll my only daughter in the government school,” he announced, and asked other members of the house to take lead in this initiative.

He asked the lawmakers to adopt one school each and said this would help improve education standard in 168 schools. “I will also accompany opposition members during visits to schools in their constituencies,” he said, adding that free education up to intermediate and Rs3,500 stipend for girls from class VI to X were initiatives of the Sindh government.

MQM-P parliamentary leader Kanwar Naveed said that ninety percent of revenue was generated from Karachi, but several important schemes for Karachi were deleted from the budget.

He said that Rs208 billion were earmarked for education in the budget but most of the children in Karachi go to private schools due to a lack of infrastructure and other facilities in government schools. “There are no fans, lights, drinking water and toilets in government schools,” he said.

He said that K-IV project initiated in 2003 is yet to be completed and water worth Rs500 billion is being sold out in the city annually. “Equal distribution of water should be ensured in the city and water should be supplied on alternate days in different parts of the city,” he suggested.

Speaking about accountability of the provincial government, he said that over 3,000 provincial officials are on bail, while there is no government department where the auditor general has not pointed out irregularities. He raised the issue of fake recruitments in the province on urban quota.  Other lawmakers, PTI’s Haleem Adil Shaikh, Minister for Energy Imtiaz Shaikh, Minister for Works and Services Nasir Hussain Shah and Minister for Local Bodies Saeed Ghani, also spoke during the budget debate.

The speaker adjourned the assembly proceedings for Sunday at 10:00 am which would witness speech from Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah followed by discussion on charged expenditure, discussion and voting on demands for grants for 2018-19 and cut motions from opposition benches and later laying of schedule of authorized expenditure for 2018-19.