Pakistan News

PA speaker expels officials over late response to queries

PESHAWAR: Speaker of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani on Monday reprimanded ministers for allowing bureaucrats to dominate them and hit out at officers over indifference to the house’s business.

“You, all ministers, seem powerless and bureaucracy is dominant over you,” Mr Ghani told minister for law and local government Akbar Ayub after expelling officials of the finance department from the house over the department’s late response to starred questions at the beginning of the sitting on Monday.

The chair expressed displeasure when opposition Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Nighat Yasmin Orakzai complained that the finance department had submitted a late reply to her question about allocation of funds for development projects in North Waziristan tribal district.

Ms Orakzai said under the rules of business, the department should have submitted reply 48 hours before the start of the session.

Says ministers seem toothless, bureaucrats dominant over them

She said she had submitted a question on March 8 but the finance department responded to it few hours before the start of the sitting.

The lawmaker said the bureaucracy was trying to undermine members of the house.

“Mr Speaker, you have given rulings on many occasions but didn’t make any difference. Now, this is better for you to step down as the custodian of the House,” she said, adding that she will bring privilege motion against secretary finance for late reply to her question.

Finance minister Taimur Saleem Khan Jhagra attempted to cool things down and gave explanation on behalf of the finance department but the speaker didn’t give him the floor. The chair addressed law minister Akbar Ayub Khan over the indifferent attitude of the bureaucracy.

“First, make a decision whether you are the minister or the secretary is your minister,” he told law minister Akbar Ayub.

Lashing out at the bureaucracy, the speaker said officers had made mockery of the assembly’s business.

“Get out from the assembly and we don’t need you anymore,” Mr Ghani asked officials of the finance department sitting in the official gallery.

He said the administrative secretaries should ensure their presence in the house in future.

Mr Ayub also concurred with the angry speaker and expressed helplessness in reining the bureaucracy.

Expressing his helplessness, the minister said he was unable to find the secretary in the evening to discuss parliamentary business.

He said he had discussed the matter with the chief minister and chief secretary.

“We will take up this issue in the upcoming meeting of the cabinet and strict action will be taken in this regard,” he said.

The speaker referred Nighat Orakzai’s question about development funds to the house’s standing committee.

The assembly unanimously passed a resolution asking the federal government and its attached entities to start work on an airport in Mansehra district.

MPA Babar Saleem Swati, who moved the resolution, said the government had imposed Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act in Lessa Nawab area to secure around 6,000 kanals of land for the airport and released Rs450 million for the purpose.

He, however, said the relevant section had been withdrawn for unidentified reasons.

The lawmaker said the proposed airport had importance from strategic, commercial and tourism aspects, so the government should revoke Section 4. The members also held a debate on price hike.

Speaking on his adjournment motion, Awami National Party MPA Salahuddin Mohmand held the government responsible for soaring prices of essential commodities.

He said the common man had lost purchasing power due to record inflation. He said the ruling PTI had gifted inflation and unemployment to the nation during the last two years. He claimed 40 per cent increase in the prices of essential commodities.

ANP member Sardar Hussain Babak said inflation was a major issue and the government would not deny it.

He said inflation had affected all segments of society and the people could not pay electricity bills.

The lawmaker said people had to make long queues outside utility stores to buy sugar and wheat flour.

PPP MPA Ahmad Kundi said economic growth could not increase without political stability in the country, while price hike and economic growth were interlinked.

He said the narrative of strategic depth and deep state was promoted in society.

The member said Pakistan could not be made a welfare state unless the state gave up the mantra of strategic depth and deep state. He said religion was used to achieve so-called goals and objectives.

Mr Kundi blamed political parties for the current poor state of affairs and said political parties would have to break status quo.

Adviser to the chief minister on food Khaliq Rehman Khattak attributed the current inflation to Covid-19 pandemic and said the grain prices had increased in the international market. He said food items had registered up to 40 per cent increase in the global market due to the pandemic.

The adviser said the government would increase the salaries of its employees in the next budget.

Labour minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai held the previous government responsible for the current economic slowdown.

He said the government had returned Rs35 billion foreign loan, which was obtained by its predecessors. The chair later adjourned the sitting until 2pm on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2021

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