The chief executives of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan, and the finance ministers of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab rebuked the coalition government on Monday for depriving their people of their rightful share by withholding funds.
The censure came at a press conference held in Islamabad and attended by KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, KP Finance Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra, GB CM Khalid Khurshid Khan, AJK Finance Minister Abdul Majid Khan and Punjab Finance Minister Mohsin Leghari.
At the outset of the press conference, the KP CM complained that the provincial government had written several letters to the federal government, apprising it of its financial issues and asking it to resolve them.
“But there has been no reply from their side,” he said.
He went on to say that the KP government had announced a budget of Rs1.3 trillion for the current fiscal year. The budget was focused on investing in the people and development schemes that were near completion in line with PTI chief Imran Khan’s vision, he said.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t received these funds,” he regretted.
Mahmood went on to say that his provincial government was facing difficulties since the incumbent dispensation, led by the Pakistan Democratic Movement, came into power in April.
“I am warning the federal government today to give us our dues, our money, which is our right. We are not asking for charity,” he said, claiming that the funds to be paid had reached Rs189 billion in December.
He also stressed the need to release funds for merged areas. Not releasing funds for these areas is “dangerous”, he said, alleging that the federal government had placed a “considerable cut” on the budget for these areas.
“The current budget [for merged areas] is Rs60bn while our requirement is Rs85bn,” he said. Moreover, he said, the KP government is also being deprived of Rs4.5bn set aside for the Sehat Card programme in merged areas and Rs17bn for displaced persons.
He alleged that all the projects allotted for KP under the federal government’s Public Sector Development Programme (PDSP) during the PTI government’s tenure had been “washed out” and the province’s allocation under the initiative was significantly reduced.
“And they are also not giving us sovereign guarantee so that we take loans from a third party. Where do we go then?”
The KP CM went on to claim that the province had also not been the Rs10bn promised by the federal government to cope with the aftermath of the devastating floods.
He called on the federal government to pay the KP government’s dues, saying: “Is KP not a part of Pakistan? If it is, give us our right. And if they won’t, we will stage a sit-in outside the National Assembly.”
The CM said they had the opposition’s support in KP for the intended move and if KP’s funds were not released even after the sit-in, “we will gather people from KP and bring them to Islamabad”.
“If they will not give us our right, we will snatch it,” he warned, adding that the KP government was open to talks with the federal government on the matter.
Meanwhile, GB chief executive Khurshid said the development budget for all other regions was increased this year but for GB, it was reduced from Rs40bn to Rs25bn.
“This has never happened in our history,” he remarked, terming the move “enmity with the region”.
Moreover, he continued, the federal government released a mere Rs2.8bn under the Annual Development Programme (ADP) for GB in the first six months of the current fiscal year — an amount insufficient to run the administrative unit.
CM Khurshid also regretted that not a single project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was launched in GB, which had a significant capacity to produce electricity.
Now, he said, the area was experiencing hours-long loadshedding. “And the GB government has also run out of money to run diesel generator sets” to reduce the duration of loadshedding,“ he added.
He also rued that the federal government had reduced the wheat subsidy for GB. “From where do we arrange for electricity and wheat now?” he questioned.
The CM also decried that GB had not been given funds to deal with the flood aftermath. “They committed to give us developments funds worth Rs40bn and they did not even honour that,” he added.
CM Khurshid said his government was left with no other option but to go on strike.
“We will hold a strike across GB and then, if possible, we will also bring people here (Islamabad). We will hold a cabinet meeting outside the National Assembly. They have made a joke out of this.”
For his part, Punjab Finance Minister Leghari said the Centre had to pay an outstanding amount of Rs176.4bn to the province and the federal government had also failed to pay its share under a tripartite agreement with the Punjab government and State Life Insurance for the Sehat Card programme.
The provincial minister also claimed that no funds were issued to Punjab for flood relief while the province was excluded from projects approved for infrastructure rehabilitation projects approved during a recent Executive Committee of the National Economic Council meeting.
With regard to sovereign guarantees, he criticised the federal government for not signing an agreement for a loan by the Asian Development Bank for constructing Greater Thal Canal — a project he said held immense significance for improving food security.
Leghari complained that the federal government was not cooperating with provinces, “as if we are at war”.
AJK Finance Minister Abdul Majid Khan said the PDM government had “hit AJK” first after coming to power and failed to pay its complete variable grant under the 2018 financial agreement.
Decrying a lack of funds, he said the AJK government would soon run out of funds to pay salaries.
He recalled that Imran Khan’s government had announced a “Line of Control (LoC) package” under the development budget for AJK.
“This Line of Control is our first defence line […] and the civil population living along the Line of Control is your first defence line […] The significance and sensitivity of [development along the LoC] should be realised,” he said, adding that after the PDM government came to power, the allocation for the LoC was significantly reduced.
Similarly, he decried a “reduction in PSDP funds for AJK”. The AJK minister said they had run out of patience and were left with no other option but to stage a peaceful protest.
“And if demanding rights for our people is rebellion and the federal government disapproves of it — we will do it repeatedly,” he added.