By: ZULFIQAR ALI
PESHAWAR: Women lawmakers from the opposition benches in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Tuesday pinned down the government over the alleged discrimination in allocation of development funds for MPAs.
The protesters disrupted the proceedings and staged a walkout from the house, forcing the chair to adjourn session till Wednesday.
They also forced male colleagues to join them though initially, the latter were reluctant to take part in the walkout.
The treasury’s women members had serious reservations over the alleged ‘inequality and discrimination’ in the allocation of funds for MPAs but could not openly support the opposition on the issue.
“We support opposition on this matter but can’t raise voice for our rights,” said one woman treasury MPA who along with other colleagues visited women chamber, where opposition MPAs were discussing their future line of action.
Women lawmakers complained that the provincial government had allocated Rs70 million to every male MPA for development schemes in his constituency, while the information minister had announced that every woman and minority member elected on reserved seats would get Rs10 million.
The debate on allocation of funds started when special assistant to the chief minister Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani said opposition MPA Nighat Orakzai had resigned from two standing committees and a special committee constituted for investigating cases of harassment of female students by male teachers at the University of Peshawar and other educational institutions in the province.
Nighat Orakzai while explaining her position said she had resigned from committees to protest the discrimination against women in the allocation of development funds.
Like male colleagues, she said women lawmakers had also equal rights and privileges and therefore, the government was bound to make sure equitable distribution of funds among all members of the House.
She said: “PTI Chairman Imran Khan and militants have same attitude towards women.”
The alleged discriminatory remarks of information minister Shah Farman and adviser to the chief minister on food Qalandar Khan Lodhi against women lawmakers caused uproar in the house and prompting the opposition members to stage a walkout.
“Attitude of some women lawmakers is bringing a bad name to this august house and the province,” said Qalandar Lodhi, adding that a number of MPAs were creating disturbance in the assembly.
Minister Shah Farman said: “being a minister, this is my discretion to allocate or not to allocate funds to someone.”
He said there was no provision in the Constitution about allocation of development funds but there was a precedent under which elected representatives were provided funds for developmental schemes.
The minister said earlier, he had made commitment to allocate Rs10 million development funds to every woman member but now he was not bound to do so. The provocative remarks triggered uproar and disrupted the proceedings.
Qaumi Watan Party MPA Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli while taking part in the discussion demanded fair treatment to all lawmakers.
She alleged that the government had shown discrimination among the members on the basis of sex and religion.
“This is absolutely discrimination. All MPAs are all equal and government should ensure equivalent distribution of development funds,” she said.
Later, a committee comprising treasury and opposition members was constituted to work out mechanism for the allocation of funds.