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ISLAMABAD: After Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) warned not to vote on the budget if funds were not allocated for 2022 flood victims, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday said a comprehensive master plan for rehabilitation and reconstruction of flood-affected areas would be prepared on July 15.

Speaking in the National Assembly, the minister said the decision to this effect was taken at a recent meeting with the senior PPP leadership and other coalition partners.

He said that work on the master plan would be started by the Planning and Development Ministry soon after the passage of the budget.

Flood allocation: Sindh’s reservations will be addressed without delay: Dar

He said that unprecedented floods inflicted a loss of over $30.6 billion on the country and $16.3 billion would be needed for completion of the construction and rehabilitation work in four to five years.

“Out of $16.3 billion, $11 billion will be spent for the flood-hit areas of Sindh, while the rest will be made available for Balochistan, South Punjab, and other flood-affected areas,” he added.

He said that international donors had pledged over eight $8 billion to help the flood-affected people of Pakistan, adding it has been decided that reconstruction projects worth $8.1 billion will be funded by Pakistan with a fifty-fifty percent share of federal and provincial governments.

Giving details of the mega projects to be executed in the flood-affected areas, he said that Sindh provincial government has started a flood emergency housing project.

He said funding of Rs50 billion will be required for this project during the next fiscal year, adding 50 percent of the funds will be contributed by the federal government.

Dar said that an investment of Rs46 billion is required for the KB feeder of K-4 and an extension of Kinjhar Lake.

He said that an amount of Rs6 billion will be required for this project during the next fiscal year. He said both the federal and Sindh governments will make a contribution of Rs3 billion each.

He said the Sindh government also has a plan to reconstruct 1,800 schools affected by the heavy rains and floods last year at a cost of Rs11.9 billion, adding Rs4 billion are needed for this project during the next financial year.

“The federal government will provide $2 billion while the remaining half will be provided by the provincial government,” he added.

About the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), he said the allocation for the programme has been increased from Rs34 billion to Rs450 billion.

Meanwhile, speaking on a point of order, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif criticised those who have approached the Supreme Court to challenge the trial of civilians in military courts and said that they have political motives behind their actions.

He emphasized that the practice of trying civilians in military courts was not new, with previous instances having occurred and been endorsed by the judiciary.

He recalled that during the previous government’s tenure, military courts convicted 24 to 25 civilians, adding the petitioners should not compromise on the country’s dignity for their political gains.

Taking part in the ongoing budget debate, Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, who is also chairman NA Standing Committee on Finance, stressed facilitating the business community of Pakistan, especially the community in Karachi.

He further stated that the increasing trend of brain drain is detrimental to the economic progress of Pakistan, therefore, the government should take substantive measures to facilitate and promote the domestic business community.

He stressed refraining from falling prey to the propaganda being spread regarding the financial stability of Pakistan.

In addition, he stated that Pakistan’s total assets are worth $4,000 billion, whereas, the total debt is worth $200 billion, therefore, it is impossible for Pakistan to go bankrupt.

He stated that it is necessary for Pakistan to further strengthen its economic ties with China and also to successfully secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) so as to avoid being isolated from the rest of the world.

Shazia Marri of the PPP said that her party and other coalition partners joined the unity government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to achieve this objective as per the spirit of the Constitution.

About measures taken to alleviate poverty and to ensure social protection for the poor, she said the budget for the BISP has significantly been increased.

Muhammad Khan Daha commended the government for presenting an agriculture-friendly budget. He said high-quality seeds should be introduced to enhance the agri yield.

Mahar Irshad Ahmad Khan said solar systems should be provided free of cost to the farmers to reduce their input costs.

Those who spoke on the occasion include Pir Ameer Ali Shah Jeelani and Muhammad Israr Tareen.

Meanwhile, Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Rana Tanveer Hussain informed the National Assembly that notification of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) against organizing Holi celebrations in universities has been withdrawn.

The NA Speaker, Raja Pervez Ashraf, also issued a ruling that all religions are free to practice and develop their culture under the Constitution. He also directed to withdraw the notification issued by the HEC. Responding to points raised by Ramesh Lal and Kesoo Mal Kheeal Das, the minister said that he took serious notice of the notification and it had been withdrawn early in the morning.

The HEC should not write such a letter as per Quaid-i-Azam’s saying and the Constitution, and the followers of every religion are free in Pakistan and they can perform their religious rituals as per their religion, he said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Ch K A Nye Jun 23, 2023 09:52am
The man lies. Why would anyone in their sane mind believe anything he says.
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