LAHORE: Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan snubbed the parliamentary secretary for transport and warned him of problems in the next session if he could not come with a detailed answer to a question of an opposition legislator. The opposition MPA asked about the whooping amount of money spent on Lahore Orange Train and Metro Bus.
PTI legislator Muhammad Arif Abbasi walked out of the session after the speaker granted the secretary time till the next PA session. Abbasi, before leaving the house, raised question marks over the order passed by the speaker to Muhammad Nawaz Chohan on January 29. The speaker asked for a detailed answer by February 1 and also questioned how matters would proceed if things remained unchanged.
Chohan, responding to Abbasi sought, more time form the Speaker to provide a detailed and substantial answer. However, the Speaker, expressing his dismay over the helplessness of the secretary, said the circumstances were regrettable. He stressed that a detailed answer must be provided by the next session.
On January 29, Abbasi asked if the government had claimed that it had acquired an external debt of Rs.1.626billion for the Lahore Orange Line Train. His question was related to the markup on which the loan is secured? How it would be returned? Which bank granted them the loan and what were its conditions? He also asked whether the amount spent on purchasing land, expenses of utility shifting and metro tracks was included in Rs.44.56billion which the government had spent on the metro track.
A woman minority legislator Shunila Ruth expressing her gloom over the conduct of the government and said minorities were being neglected. She added neither the number of minorities nor handicapped were disclosed by the government after conducting the recent census.
“Have our mothers and sisters stopped giving birth to children”, Ruth asked. To this, Human Rights and Minorities Affairs minister Khalil Tahir Sandhu seconded her stance said the number of seats also needed to be increased. He requested the provincial law minister to take their concerns to the Upper House. Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the number of seats in both the National and Punjab Assemblies and Senate could not be increased following the increase in population.
Later, a consensus also developed between both treasury and opposition benches to continue House proceedings till Senate elections, adding the session will be conducted three days from the second week of this month. The legislators also agreed to continue proceedings on February 5 and observe ‘Kashmir Day’ in solidarity with Kashmiris.
During the question-answer session, Minister for Prisons Malik Ahmed Yar Hanjra responded to a question on overcrowded jails and said the matter was being resolved. He added four jails had been started functioning where prisoners were being shifted. One jail will be constructed at Sua-e-Asal.
The speaker ordered Haji Muhammad Illyas Ansari, parliamentary secretary for Bait-ul-Maal and Social Welfare, to ponder over the concern of PTI legislator Asif Mehmood. The MOA told the House that those people with shorter heights were not given the certificate of being handicapped persons. The parliamentary sectary said there was a criteria defined by the government for special persons so such people did not fall in the category. However, the speaker ordered that the concerns of the legislators be pondered over.
The opposition leader Mian Mehmood ur Rasheed, on a point of order, lashed out at government’s leaders after Nihal Hashmi was awarded punishment by the country’s top court. He said the government should stop mudslinging at the country’s institutions including judiciary. He demanded the government take back its decision to increase rates of petroleum products. Treasury benches chanted slogans in favor of former PM Nawaz Sharif while opposition said “The poor be given the right to live”.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2018.