The Panama Papers Leak took centre stage once again at the Provincial Assembly session on Wednesday where an amended resolution was passed lauding the prime minister for forming a judicial commission to probe claims of financial wrongdoings.
The draft, submitted by Leader of Opposition Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed in the assembly secretariat, had sought the prime minister’s resignation. Amendments to the resolution were proposed by Law Minister Rana Sanaullah.
Rasheed’s draft had also rejected a commission chaired by a retired Supreme Court judge to investigate the allegations in the Panama Papers Leak. It had demanded that a commission comprising serving judges of the Supreme Court be formed. The draft resolution had also called for the prime minister’s resignation to allow impartial investigations into the matter.
Rasheed’s remarks drew a strong reaction from the Treasury benches when he sought Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal’s permission to move the resolution out of turn.
Assembly proceedings stalled for several minutes when some women lawmakers from the Treasury benches chanted slogans directed at the Opposition benches. Members from the Opposition approached the speaker’s dice and chanted slogans against the government.
Iqbal repeatedly urged the leader of the opposition to first move a motion for suspension of the rules to take up his resolution. At this point, lawmakers from the Opposition benches walked out.
Law Minister Rana Sanaullah then made a motion to move amendments to the draft. The amended resolution commended the PM’s decision to form a commission headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court.
It condemned efforts to destabilise the country through “baseless, conspiratorial and evil” leaks.
In the absence of the Opposition, the House unanimously passed the amended resolution.
The question hour on Housing and Urban Development was marred by criticism over the failure of parliamentary secretary to respond to queries. Several lawmakers were denied permission to take up supplementary queries.
The pre-budget debate continued on Wednesday. When Opposition lawmakers returned later in the session Finance Minister was taken to task over her failure to inform the House of budgetary targets achieved during the previous fiscal year.
Subsidies for farmers, focus on human development sectors and promotion of vocational training were proposed and the Prime Minister’s Kissan Package was criticised by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) legislators.
Agriculture emerged a priority sector with a majority of lawmakers calling for subsidies on agricultural inputs and interest-free private bank loans for a fixed percentage of farmers. Lawmakers said an agro-marketing authority should be formed to set prices.
Some lawmakers from both benches said south Punjab was a neglected part of the province. They said the government should invest in public schools and hospitals. They said access to safe drinking water, improved sewerage system, establishment of water channels in Cholistan and a road network should be prioritised.
Funding for basic facilities in minority-residential areas was proposed by PTI’s MPA Shanila Ruth. She said funds allocated for minorities and human rights during the previous fiscal year had not been released.
Treasury Member Sardar Jamal Khan Laghari too criticised the government’s priorities, saying funds for development in Dera Ghazi Khan were being stalled.
He said the government had stopped investing in public schools in his constituency to facilitate the private sector.
MPA Sheikh Alaud Din called for restoration of industry to ensure provision of employment, rationing of basic food items in low-income areas and a one-window taxation system. The lawmaker demanded that an urban limit be set for housing societies to prevent use of agricultural land for housing.
The session will continue on Thursday morning.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2016.