Empty seats: Health debate draws little attention in assembly

Opposition continues to slam treasury over inaction in sector

Rana Yasif January 27, 2017

LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly debate over the health sector seemed to draw little interest from MPAs as the two days for which it was fixed saw a largely empty house.

The opposition and some treasury benchers strongly criticised the government for not taking appropriate measures in rural areas. They claimed it was due to the government’s attitude that no steps were taken to strengthen the health sector in rural areas.

One of the legislators, Nighat Sheikh of PML-N, suggested the government should take philanthropists on board to donate for basic health units and district headquarter hospitals.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed, on a point of order, asked the Punjab Assembly speaker about the progress on a reference they had filed against Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, seeking his disqualification for misuse of authority.

Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan he would look into the matter according to procedure.

Subsequently, the opposition created a ruckus in the house and chanted slogans against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. This drew a response from the opposition and a sloganeering match ensued for 15 minutes.

Later, one legislator, pointing to the lack of quorum, left the house. After counting the members, the speaker said the number of MPAs present was sufficient and ordered that proceedings be continued.

Punjab Minster for Law Rana Sanaullah, on another point of order, lashed out at the opposition leader. He stated that two days were fixed for the health debate by the house, but no one from their side was present. Sanaullah added the opposition was merely there to chant slogans.

Later, Punjab Minister for Health Khawaja Salman Rafique, responding to a legislator’s reservations over poor performance in the health sector, said that it was unfair to say the administration had done nothing.

He continued that work was under way to positively change the ways basic health units and hospitals ran in rural areas. He added Rs25 billion would be increased in the supplementary health budget.  Rafique claimed health is a priority sector and hoped other parties would do the same in their provinces. Only 13 people were present in the house to hear the minister’s words.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2017.


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