Federal minister Fawad Chaudhry has come out against the provincial government of Punjab government, saying its inequitable distribution of district-level funding is causing “disappointment and disillusionment.”
In a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, which has been seen by Newsweek, the Science and Technology minister took aim at the government of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, saying that despite coming into power 16 months ago, the Punjab government had failed to equitably distribute funds at the district-level in violation of Article 140A of the Constitution.
“Punjab receives the highest share in the National Finance Commission Award, but since Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif took over Punjab as the Chief Minister, he had immediately halted provincial National Finance Commission Award, which is a serious violation of Article 140A of the Constitution,” said the letter. “Unfortunately, the incumbent Government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, despite the passage of 16 months, has yet not announced the provincial NFC Award,” it added.
Article 140A of the Constitution of Pakistan states that “each province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan has been a vocal supporter of devolving power to local governments, vowing to establish a new local government system in his inaugural address. The ruling PTI’s election manifesto also promised to transfer resources and decision-making to the “people of Pakistan” by introducing a city government model. This has not yet been implemented.
Chaudhry in his letter noted that Khan’s stated aims were not being met under the current system. “Your Excellency has always laid great emphasis on the establishment of a strong local government system, which entails equitable distribution of resources among all the provinces, but this is not possible without timely announcement of the provincial National Finance Commission Award.”
In a subsequent posting on Twitter in Urdu, Chaudhry said his issue was not with the Punjab government, but rather inequitable distribution of funds. “The chief ministers consider themselves kings, which is against the public interest,” he added.
This is not the first time Chaudhry has seemingly chastised the Punjab government led by Buzdar. According to local media, the minister also lashed out the Punjab government during a core committee meeting of the PTI on Thursday. “The Punjab government is failing to deliver, and this is piling pressure on the PTI [at the Center],” he was quoted as saying, adding that the provincial government was failing to live up to the people’s expectations both politically and administratively.
The minister claimed that of Punjab’s Rs. 350 billion development budget, the government had thus far only released Rs. 77 billion. The provincial government has denied this. The media adviser of the Punjab government, Musarrat Cheema, issued a statement saying the government had actually set aside Rs. 42 billion for public-private partnership projects, and had also released Rs. 179 billion of funds allocated under the Annual Development Plan.
Chaudhry isn’t the first to lash out at his own government in recent days. On Wednesday, a PTI lawmaker alleged that the Railways Ministry was “selling” government jobs by charging Rs. 150,000 per candidate. Similarly, allied parties of the PTI have slammed it for not disbursing development funds for their constituencies. The MQM-P, the Grand Democratic Alliance, the PML-Q, the Balochistan Awami Party and BNP-Mengal have all claimed they are reconsidering their support of the government over its inability to cater to their demands.
Per local media, Prime Minister Imran Khan has sought to correct this by directing Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar to meet with the provincial authorities in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and ensure distribution of funds to the district level through provincial finance awards.