Thursday was a busy day for members of the Punjab Assembly.
A resolution supporting extracurricular activities in public and private education institutions was passed, amid some opposition. The treasury also managed to pass 14 bills, sent back by the governor with objections after the previous session, through motions in the House. This did not go down well with the PPP, which said that it was contemplating challenging the re-passage of the bills.
Opposition Leader Raja Riaz presented the resolution in the House in order to address the objections of several lawmakers, who on Wednesday had opposed a resolution passed on Tuesday supporting a ban on ‘objectionable’ concerts at schools and colleges.
The session commenced at 10.55am.
The lawmakers had agreed on Wednesday that the fresh resolution would address concerns about ‘objectionable’ and ‘vulgar’ activities. However, the resolution moved by Riaz was not only missing the two words but also ‘music concerts’.
The text of the resolution read: “The House is of the opinion that there shall not be any ban on any extra curricular, cultural, national and literary activities in public and private education institutions.”
Disagreement came not just from the opposition but also the treasury. PML-N’s Maulana Ilyas Chinioti and Chaudhry Abdul Waheed opposed it.
Unification Bloc’s Sheikh Alauddin walked out after the Speaker did not accept his request that his name be added to the committee asked to draft the resolution. After Riaz moved the resolution, Alauddin said that he should be given credit for the new draft “since it’s my resolution”. The Speaker told him that he had not yet received any resolution submitted by him [Alauddin]. Alauddin then asked the Speaker to include his name amongst movers but his request was once again denied. Alauddin walked out from the House but came back shortly after.
PML-N’s Ilyas Chinioti opposed the resolution and demanded that the term ‘cultural activities’ be defined. “The Quran says that those who sing or listen to songs are condemned to hell,” he said. Did the term ‘cultural activities’ include music concerts, he asked. “Islam prohibits music concerts. If they are allowed at education institutions, our children will be distanced from Islam,” the PML-N member said.
Chaudhry Abdul Waheed supported him and said that Islam “should not be disgraced through cultural activities”.
At this point, PPP’s Rifat Sultana Dar rose in her chair and said, “Songs were also sung in Holy Prophet’s (peace be upon him) time”.
“That is the country’s biggest problem: everybody wants to impose their version of Islam on others when Islam teaches that one should follow the teachings oneself,” said Humaira Awais Shahid, from the PML-Q. She then pointed out that the Punjab government had arranged a musical evening on Saturday, when the Food Street near Lahore Fort was inaugurated. “Why does the government want to ban music concerts in education institutions?” she said.
The Speaker asked Sanaullah to respond to the objections. Sanaullah said that the term ‘culture’ did not need to be defined “since everybody knows about the province’s culture”. He requested the Speaker to put the resolution to vote.
Parliamentary Secretary Zafar Iqbal Nagra answered members’ queries about the Housing, Urban Development and Public Health Engineering Department.
PPP Deputy Parliamentary Leader Shaukat Basra called the last two days as “the darkest days” of Punjab’s parliamentary history. He said rules were “bulldozed” to re-pass the 28 bills the governor had returned with objections. He said that the PPP was thinking of moving court to challenge the ‘unconstitutional’ action.
Fourteen of the returned bills were passed on Wednesday and the remaining on Thursday. 25 bills are related to subjects that used to be on the concurrent list that was abolished under the 18th amendment. The remaining three bills are: The Punjab Local Government Second (Amendment) Bill 2011, The Ghazi University DG Khan Bill 2011 and The Punjab Public Service Commission (Amendment) Bill 2011.
Treasury leaders said that motions had been moved in line with Rule 235 of the Rules of Procedure of the Punjab Assembly. PML-Q’s Sardar Mohsin Khan Leghari said that the said rule allowed the speaker to adopt the procedure in cases which were not specific. However, he said, in this case the governor sent back the bills “specifically for reconsideration”.
The bills should therefore have been presented in the House through relevant standing committees, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2012.