A pugnacious opposition on Tuesday managed to stall Provincial Assembly (PA) proceedings for a few minutes amid concerted anti-government sloganeering in connection with the Panama revelations.
Replicating last week’s proceedings, Leader of the Opposition Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed once again sought permission to move an out-of-turn adjournment motion over the Panama Papers. Denied permission, the opposition took to staging a sit-in before the speaker’s podium. While two resolutions on the agenda moved by opposition lawmakers were disposed of amid the uproar, four others were passed.
With Rasheed insisting on moving the adjournment motion, Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal maintained that the rules did not allow him to do so. The men engaged in a verbal duel thereafter. The opposition—with 20 members present—indulged in anti-government sloganeering as it besieged the speaker’s podium. Not to be outdone, around 20 Treasury lawmakers, mostly women, struck back at the opposition with slogans of their own. Adding fuel to the fire, the PML-N’s Mian Munir provocatively placed wads of cash before those who had besieged the speaker’s podium.
Of the four resolutions, three were passed unanimously while one was passed by a majority. Sibtain Khan’s resolution exhorting the government to announce a relief package for farmers whose crops had been destroyed by floods and rains met with spirited opposition from women Treasury lawmakers.
Rasheed’s resolution calling on the federal government to reorganise the Pakistan Cricket Board on merit was passed unanimously. Saadia Sohail’s resolution for strict action against unlicensed pharmacies was also passed unanimously. Najma Afzal Khan’s resolution urging varsity communication departments to research on ways to further a softer image of the nation was also passed unanimously.
Speaking on the continued absence of parliamentary secretaries from the session, the speaker highlighted the need for pertinent ministers and secretaries to be in attendance to present answers regarding adjournment motions. Expressing disappointment over this, Iqbal warned of strict action against it in the future. The law minister voiced similar sentiments.
Earlier, the question hour was marred by the failure of concerned departments to furnish answers to questions put forth. PML-Q’s Khadija Umar said as many as seven questions on the agenda had failed to solicit a response from concerned departments. PTI’s Mian Aslam Iqbal highlighted that a question pertaining to the closure of roads by the DHA to some localities in its vicinity had failed to elicit a response from the Colonies Department despite the passage of three years. The Chair warned the pertinent parliamentary secretary of action in case the query remained unaddressed in the next session.
A heated debate ensued between PML-N’s Sheikh Alauddin and the home parliamentary secretary as the former complained of foreign exchange concerns being forcibly closed by police over alleged non-compliance with security protocols. The parliamentary secretary’s contention that it was mandatory for police to inspect security protocols and submit a report before the District Security Advisory Committee was disputed by the lawmaker.
The law minister’s intervention in the debate put the matter to rest. After placating the MPA, Sanaullah invited the lawmaker to a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Law and Order to look into the matter. Proceedings will continue on Wednesday with the House slated to conclude the much delayed pre-budget debate.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2016.