Several opposition members in the Punjab Assembly (PA) said on Tuesday that Chief Minister (CM) Shahbaz Sharif should have given his statement regarding the non-involvement of his government in American national Raymond Davis’s release in the house.
The CM, on Monday, had held a press briefing at his office where he had said that if he or any official in his government was found involved in the deal leading to Davis’s release, he would resign from office.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP’s) deputy parliamentary leader Shaukat Mehmood Basra, on a point of order, had said that Sharif did not have the courage to face the opposition so had instead used the media to plead his innocence. He said he would prove the CM’s involvement in Davis’s release. Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, Basra added, too had been involved in Davis’s release.
At this point, members from the treasury benches stood up and raised slogans. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N’s) MPAs alleged that PPP’s Uzma Bukhari’s father Zahid Bukhari had been paid $100,000 as Davis’s counsel. They said the PPP should clean its own house before making allegations against the PML-N.
Bukhari then stood in front of the speaker’s desk and protested. PPP’s Ashraf Sohna and Basra and some others, rushed to the speaker’s dais and tried to clash with her. Deputy Speaker Rana Mashhood’s timely intervention prevented a clash.
After the prayer interval, the speaker adjourned the session till Wednesday at 10 am.
The session had started an hour late at around 11 am. The opposition benches had tried to speak on points of order but the speaker refused to allow them. They boycotted the house. During Question Hour, PPP’s Faiza Malik pointed out the quorum which was found lacking. The speaker ordered that the bell be rung for five minutes. The session resumed when more treasury benches returned to complete quorum.
The speaker then sent Ahmad Ali Aulakh to bring the opposition members to the house and started questions regarding the Industries, Commerce and Investment Departments. Parliamentary secretary Rana Tajammul Hussain responded to the questions.
After 20 minutes, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-i-Azam’s Samia Amjad pointed out the quorum. The treasury benches resumed the earlier exercise and the session resumed. The opposition benches then came in along with Aulakh.
Hussain told the house that the government had started the Punjab Food Stamp Scheme (PFSS) for people below the poverty line. He said that under the scheme every MPA had been given 5,000 forms which were distributed on the recommendation of coordinators at the Union Council level in a transparent manner.
PML-Q’s Seemal Kamran asked about the legal status of the local government coordinator but Hussain could not answer the question to her satisfaction. Kamran said that PFSS has failed due to these coordinators, posts which the government had awarded to party activists.
After the session ended, Basra spoke with the media in front of the PA and alleged that the PML-N was trying to malign the Pakistan Army in the release of Raymond Davis. He said first the PML-N had tried to persuade the military to support it in toppling the federal government and when this attempt failed, it had changed its stance and begun a hate campaign against the Army.
He said that Nawaz Sharif had squandered the Kargil war victory and bowed before the US. He said that Sharif had maligned the Army then as now. He said the PPP respected the Army which was fighting a war in the Tribal Areas of the country.
Basra alleged that Sanaullah had threatened PPP members that if they did not stop speaking up in the house, FIRs would be lodged against them.
Sanaullah, speaking to the media later, rejected the allegations. He said that Punjab government would stand by its stance that it was not involved in any deal making regarding Davis.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2011.