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Punjab Assembly approves budget in 20-minute session amid thin opposition attendance

LAHORE: Punjab budget 2019-20 was passed on Wednesday as the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf members approved the Punjab Finance Bill 2019 in the provincial assembly session which lasted for just 20 minutes.

The PTI government had presented its Rs2.30 trillion budget on June 14, raising its current expenditure by a modest three per cent to Rs1.3tn for the next financial year. It increased development allocations by 47pc to Rs350 billion, and announced to have a cash surplus of Rs232.9bn to meet a federal requirement to keep national fiscal deficit down at 7.2pc, making substantial changes in agriculture income tax and property tax regimes to mobilise additional revenues.

While passing the bill, the PTI members shouted fullthroated “ayes” in full view of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar who chose to sit in the house to ensure full participation of his party members on the occasion.

Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi invited Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht to introduce the bill, and had it passed briskly. A few opposition members, minus their leader Hamza Shahbaz, opposed it but their low voices were buried under the vigorous “ayes” of the PTI members.

The thin attendance of the opposition was marked and viewed as “withdrawal syndrome” in the Press Gallery.

The session began at 4.15pm against its scheduled time of 3pm and ended in just 20 minutes during which the speaker allowed law minister Raja Basharat to move a motion and four resolutions to get house’s approval for extension of four ordinances. The approval was again given by the majority PTI members.

The ordinances included The Provincial Employees Social Security (Amendment) Ordinance, The Punjab Zakat and Ushr (Amendment) Ordinance, The Punjab Khal Panchayat Ordinance and The Punjab Land Revenue (Amendment) Ordinance.

The law minister also introduced The Punjab Water bill, 2019 and The Punjab Sentencing Bill 2019 which the speaker referred to the standing committees concerned for submitting a report in two months.

Passage of The Punjab Alternate Dispute Resolution Bill 2019 was also on the house agenda. But it was kept pending by the speaker on the request of the law minister, adjourning the session till Thursday evening.

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