Treasury MPAs voted through the budget for the next fiscal year while opposition members confronted security guards over the barring of a colleague from the building in an increasingly discordant Punjab Assembly session on Thursday.
After flinging abusive remarks and shoes at each other a day earlier, the MPAs moved on to slaps and fists inside the assembly. The drama began early, when Seemal Kamran of the PML-Q was denied entry to the assembly as the speaker had barred her for seven days over Wednesday’s shoe-throwing incident. Sheikh Alauddin of the Unification Bloc was also banned for verbal abuse, the speaker decided after reviewing video footage of the proceedings.
As proceedings ensued at around noon, Samina Khawar Hayat, Khadija Umar, Dr Amna Ulfat and Majida Zaidi of the PML-Q and Sajida Mir of the PPP approached the speaker’s dais chanting slogans. They were fenced off from the dais by a shield of treasury members.
The face-off quickly degenerated into pushing and shoving and the odd slap and punch. Treasury members pushed their female colleagues forward to square off with the opposition women. Sakina Shaheen of the PML-Nawaz fought Khadija Umar, while Samina Khawar Hayat took on male treasury MPAs, tearing one gentleman’s kameez.
The assembly secretary and staff fled the house. The speaker consulted with Opposition Leader Raja Riaz and called all parliamentary party leaders to his chambers for talks during a 15-minute adjournment. At the resumption, Riaz delivered a speech praising the late Benazir Bhutto (June 21 was her birthday) but did not demand that Seemal Kamran be allowed inside.
This angered the women opposition members further and they walked out in protest. Outside, they harangued security officials for not allowing Kamran in. While proceedings continued inside, the MPAs tried to force their way past security with Kamran, but did not find a way through. The main door of the building was closed.
After much pushing and shoving, intensified by the scrum of photographers and reporters covering the incident, Kamran passed out and was rushed to hospital by Rescue 1122. Samina Khawar Hayat went around accusing security officials of beating up Kamran and slapped several of them.
The opposition members later went to Qila Gujjar Singh police station with an application for the registration of a criminal case against MPA Abdul Razzaq Dhillon of the PML-N and Sheikh Alauddin for their derogatory remarks.
Inspector Mian Abdul Qadir told The Tribune that the women MPAs had sought a harassment case against Dhillon and Alauddin. He said that the police could not legally register a case against a member of the assembly until they received instructions in this regard from the assembly speaker.
The treasury benches, meanwhile, took the opportunity not just to pass the Finance Bill 2012-13, the Punjab Sales Tax on Services Bill 2012 and the Schedule of Authorised Expenditure for 2012-13 – and thus the provincial budget for 2012-13 – but also six other bills. These were the Punjab Agriculture Universities Bill, the University of Health Sciences Bill, the King Edward Medical University Bill, the Punjab Revenue Authority Bill, the Punjab Curriculum Authority Bill and the Disposal of Land by Development Authorities Bill.
The Finance Bill includes a provision ending the two per cent stamp duty on property transfer upon inheritance and replacing it with a flat fee of Rs500. Another provision extends the period during which taxpayers can claim a five per cent rebate on urban property tax, from the first two months of the fiscal year to the first three months. It also proposes a surcharge on the late payment of property tax.
The Finance Bill also proposes that owners of vehicles of up to 1,000 cc be allowed to pay a lump sum upon the registration of their vehicles in place of the yearly token tax. Property transactions made via power of attorney between blood relatives would be exempt from capital value tax.
It also proposes measures to improve the administration and compliance of the farm house tax and education cess on clubs.
The Punjab Assembly session will resume on Friday for voting on supplementary grants for 2011-12.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2012.