Tuesday, 7 June 2011

PML-N's members object to a Christian presenting the provincial budget

Minorities have been questioning their 'Equality' as citizens of Pakistan, their constitutional rights laid  by the founder of Pakistan; Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

Last week, several provincial legislators of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) objected to Punjab cabinet member Kamran Michael presenting the budget for the reason that he is a Christian.

PML-N's party members are reported to have objected to a Christian being given such a prominent position as that of delivering the annual budget speech and fear losing votes amongst some of their conservative, right-wing vote bank. The PML-N is already afraid of losing ground in its heartland of Punjab to other parties that have been making inroads in the province in recent months.
Michael had been given charge of the finance ministry in March, after the PML-N kicked out the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) from Punjab’s ruling coalition. He  replaced the PPP’s Tanveer Ashraf Kaira, in addition to retaining his earlier portfolio of Human rights and minorities affairs.
In a country where discrimination towards Christians is common, atrocities and crimes towards minorities fall to deaf ears; it comes as no shock to many Christians on hearing the opposition of law makers in Punjab.

However, while Michael was minister in theory, in practise the position has been managed by Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa, senior adviser to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Khosa attended all meetings related to the budget and was the de facto head of the ministry, despite the fact that Punjab government rules prohibit an adviser from heading any departmental business, even those at a department to which he or she has been assigned.
It is being said that Michael was forbidden from even contacting the finance secretary or the chairman of the planning and development department.
Michael holds the finance ministry as an “additional portfolio”, which means that he is authorised to present the budget. However, he has not been assigned the ministry itself.  Rule 136 of the Punjab Assembly Rules of Procedure requires the provincial budget to be presented by the finance minister or another minister who has been assigned his portfolio.
According to the rules of the Punjab Assembly, the residual powers of any unfilled portfolios in the provincial cabinet are transferred to the chief minister until a new minister is appointed. Shahbaz currently holds 20 portfolios himself, having failed to appoint cabinet ministers after kicking out the PPP from the ruling coalition.
Sources said that PML-N members have suggested that the “additional portfolio” for the finance ministry be given to Education and Excise Minister Mujtaba Shuja Rehman in order to avoid Michael presenting the budget. A final decision is expected to be taken at a party meeting on Tuesday (07 June 2011).
Since the chief minister technically occupies the powers of finance minister, he could present the budget himself, without having to assign the portfolio to any other cabinet member.
It is likely that Mujtaba Shuja Rehman is to present the Punjab budget for fiscal year 2012.

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