The Provincial Assembly on Monday passed a unanimous resolution condemning an attack on the office of a television channel. The resolution demanded that the government take the necessary security measures to protect journalists and media houses.
The session chaired by Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal had earlier witnessed a token walkout by journalists from the press gallery in protests of the attack on Sunday. Journalists blocked the Charing Cross. Minister for Mines and Minerals Sher Ali met them and assured them that the government would take immediate measures to address the issue of security.
A resolution moved jointly by Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and Leader of the Opposition Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed was then passed by the House. It commended the media for its sacrifices and determination in the wake of terrorist attacks. The resolution condemned attacks on all media houses as well as efforts to curb freedom of expression. “Freedom of the press is a basic requirement of a democratic society,” it stated.
The opposition leader called on the government to seriously address the issue. The law minister said that media houses had received terrorist threats. “A meeting between the government and management of media houses earlier took place. Any lapse in media houses’ security will be addressed by the government,” he said. The law minister invited journalists as well as the opposition leader to review arrangements along with the CCPO.
The opposition took the opportunity to lash out against the Orange Line Metro Train project during the question hour. The opposition alleged that the government was ignoring other development projects and only focusing on the Rs165 billion train project. Rasheed said that funds from various departments and projects were being used for the train project.
A discussion on agriculture stretched the session to five hours with both the treasury and opposition benches criticising each other. The absence of the ministers of Food and the Finance annoyed opposition members. They demanded the ministers’ presence during the debate in accordance with a previous ruling of the speaker in this regard. The law minister dismissed the demand, saying that Agriculture Minister Farrukh Javed should do.
Javed told the House that potatoes were being exported to Sri Lanka and Malaysia. Referring to the issue of outstanding payments to sugarcane growers, the law minister said that 99 per cent payments – Rs132 billion – had been made for the year 2014-2015. “The inventories of the mills that have delayed payments have been seized,” he said. For the current year, he said, 87.7 per cent of dues had been paid. The process is expected to be completed by April, he said.
The opposition leader rejected all the claims. Rasheed criticised the government over the absence of a clear agriculture policy, lack of subsidies, mode of payment to farmers, as well as the figures cited by the ministers. “The import of vegetables from India is a challenge for local farmers,” he said. He demanded that a parliamentary committee be set up to address agriculture issues. The suggestion was supported by other opposition lawmakers. The law minister, however, proposed the inclusion of more members in the standing committee on agriculture with the condition that a report with suggestions be submitted within two months. The debate on agriculture will continue when the session resumes on Tuesday (today).
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2016.