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PM’s health programme advertisements cost as much as funds spent on dealing with dharnas

ISLAMABAD: The advertisement campaign for Prime Minister’s Health Programme has cost as much as the combined expenses of the government incurred on dealing with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf dharna in 2014 as well as its attempted lockdown of Islamabad in 2016, budget documents indicate.

Information ministry received a hefty sum of Rs1.22 billion through the supplementary grant during the financial year 2016-17 for funding the publicity campaign about the PM’s health initiative through print and electronic media. Almost as much money was used for two dharnas combined, according to budget documents.

Although there is no proper estimate of the overall economic loss occurred due to dharna politics, the efforts made to deal with two such agitations cost the public exchequer Rs1.4 billion.

While Rs745.46 million were used for 126-day staged in 2014 by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek in protest against rigging and killings in Model Town Lahore of PAT workers , according to the budget document of 2015-16, a report earlier tabled before the Senate Committee on Information revealed that Rs341 million were spent on political advertisements during dharna days in the corresponding period.

As PTI made yet another attempt on federal capital in 2016 with a resolve to lay siege, a sum of Rs667.46 million was spent to counter its attempts to lockdown Islamabad on the issue of Panama Papers.

In contrast,  an internal document of PTI regarding expenses incurred in 2014 dharna put the cost at Rs300 million the party had to bear for organizing sit-in. How much the party spent on mobilizing workers for Islamabad Lockdown remains unknown.

The documents of budget for 2017-18 tabled in the National Assembly Friday revealed that interior ministry received a supplementary grant of Rs667.46 for thwarting PTI’s efforts of locking down the federal capital in 2016.

The break-up of the supplementary grants indicates that Rs460 million was for the expenditure on efforts to stop the PTI from entering into Islamabad, a sum of Rs121 million was allocated for the payment to the “forces for aid of civil administration” and the deployment of Punjab Rangers cost a separate Rs85 million.

As for as expenses relating to dharna in 2014 is concerned, Rs695.46 million were spent for maintaining law and order. Another sum of Rs. 30 million was allocated for the fuel expenses of forces called in aid of civil administration and Rs20 million were distributed among police personnel as cash award.

Spending on maintaining public order during dharna is in contrast with what it cost to PTI in 2014. If PTI’s internal correspondence is any guide, its average daily spending just on D-Chowk sit-in only was Rs2.4 million as 126 days cost Rs300.91 million and the party was feeling financially bruised by the time Imran Khan announced to end the sit-in۔

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