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Cash-Strapped Punjab Government Claims Election Expenses Just Too Much to Bear

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LAHORE (Anwer Hussain Sumra, Investigative Journalist) In the report submitted to the court in response to the suo motu taken by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the date of the provincial assembly elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Punjab government has stated the ongoing severe financial difficulties, administrative problems in the province. Problems, possible threats of terrorism and shortage of manpower have justified the delay of elections. The report has been submitted after the approval of the caretaker chief minister, while the caretaker chief minister has repeatedly given statements that he will conduct the election when the order is given.

According to the reply submitted to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Punjab government has adopted a position that the majority of Punjab’s financial resources come from distributable federal revenue. The current federal revenue is estimated to be 28 percent more than the previous fiscal year. In which the increase has been collected by 15 percent till January and if this continues, there is a fear of a shortfall of 137 billion in the finances of the Punjab sector by the end of the financial year, which will further weaken the financial position of Punjab. The Punjab government had set a target of collecting 500 billion from its own resources in the current financial year and it is estimated from the ongoing trend that there is a fear of shortfall of 111 billion 50 crores in this collection as well. In addition to this shortfall, the Punjab government was supposed to receive funds of 140 billion from the federal government this year, but despite repeated reminders, the federal government did not release any funds, due to which the financial position of the province is weakening. 1328 billion foreign and domestic commercial loans are due and in the current year the Punjab government had to pay 103 billion 6 crores, but due to fluctuations in the value of the dollar, it is now estimated to pay 128 billion. The Punjab government took a loan of 580 billion last year for the purchase of wheat and this year a loan of 440 billion 5 crores is being taken for the purchase of 5 million metric tons of wheat, due to which the debt for the purchase of wheat will become one trillion.

According to the conditions of the IMF, the federal government has ordered the Punjab government to keep a cash surplus of 414 billion by the end of the current financial year, for which other expenses will have to be reduced. Due to the increase in the price of petrol in the country, additional funds of 41 billion have been released for petrol provided to the institutions and officers of the Punjab government and it is expected to increase further, due to which the financial condition of the province will become more severe. The provincial government had allocated funds of 214 billion to maintain peace and order in the province during the current financial year, but in the current situation in which the threats to peace and order have increased, funds of another 20 billion are required by the provincial government at the appointed time. They are hindering the conduct of elections. Additional funds of 47 billion are required for the general election across the country, out of which 15 billion are for law enforcement agencies and 9 billion 66 billion for polling arrangements in Punjab, 3 billion 65 billion in Sindh, 3 billion 95 billion in KPK and Additional funds of one billion one crore are required in Balochistan. Amidst these financial difficulties and additional expenses, elections will add to the financial problems and it will be difficult to maintain a cash surplus at the end of the financial year.

In administrative issues, the Punjab government has adopted a position that the phase one and two of the by-elections of the National Assembly have been announced, for which human resource issues will be faced. It is to be completed but has been appointed. In all the government schools, the examinations of the first class to the eighth class are held annually and the annual matriculation exams are also held in April and May. There is already a shortage of staff on 106310 posts in the education department while new admissions are also to be made and in these circumstances, the staff of the education department cannot be recruited further. The by-elections for phases one, two and three of the National Assembly, which are expected in March and April, require a staff of 155,000, which is already difficult to meet. 16 thousand schools will be used as polling stations in the by-elections of the National Assembly in 13 districts. With the holding of the by-elections of the National Assembly in three phases, the expenses of the Punjab government will increase manifold due to the general election of the provincial assembly, local governments and the national assembly.

Every year in the month of Ramadan in Punjab, Ramadan bazaar and other arrangements are made to provide cheap items to the people, in which all the district administrative officers including Deputy Commissioners, Assistant Commissioners and Revenue staff and employees of other departments are engaged. and therefore, it is not possible to focus on the election of the provincial assembly. After the recent terrorist incident in Mianiwali, the long lines of voters at the polling station for the election in the province can be an easy target for terrorists. Because there are clear threat alerts of the presence of criminals disturbing the peace in the province. 10,000 new posts have been created for recruitment in new divisions and districts in the province, which are yet to be filled. The health department of Punjab is starting a polio campaign for five days across the province from March 13, in which thousands of workers will perform services, while 10,455 workers will work for dengue, in addition to this, additional people will also work for corona. The food department is also starting the procurement of wheat on March 15, which will continue till May and all its staff will be engaged in this work. The Punjab government has taken a stand that due to these tasks, the government officials who are on duty in the election will be busy with other important matters and due to their shortage, the administration will face problems.

A senior official of the Punjab government said that the provincial government has submitted the reply to the ongoing financial and administrative difficulties and problems in the provincial assembly election after the approval of the caretaker chief minister of Punjab in the Supreme Court.

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