LAHORE: Not even a single word was spoken over the demise of prominent lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir by legislators of the treasury or opposition benches in more than 20 minutes of proceedings at the Punjab Assembly session. The day was finally adjourned by PA Deputy Speaker Sardar Sher Ali Gorchani after the opposition benches boycotted the House over the “non-seriousness” of government legislators.
There were over ten legislators when the House started and the number went above 30 when the House was adjourned, but not one MPA spoke about the demise of Asma Jahangir.
The provincial government was in the crosshairs of the opposition which raised pandemonium over the non-seriousness of the legislators and parliamentary secretaries who were not present to respond to their queries.
The House proceedings started at 3:45pm while the scheduled time was 2pm. This left the deputy speaker with no choice but to leave questions related to the food and agriculture departments pending till Tuesday. The parliamentary secretary and minister for agriculture were not present in the House upon which the Opposition benches boycotted proceedings. However, the deputy speaker said the minister for agriculture had sent a request, saying he was in a meeting of the cabinet committee.
PML-Q legislator Sardar Vickas Hassan Mokal also boycotted the session when his supplementary question was not properly answered by the Parliamentary Secretary for Food Chaudhary Asadullah. Mokal hasdasked him if the Food Department was aware of how much substandard loose milk was being sold. The parliamentary secretary said that 19,000 liter milk was being disposed of on a daily basis.
To this, Mokal said it was astonishing enough that the consumption of the milk was 40,000 litres. However, Asadullah said Mokal should be given a fresh question and later stated that he would pass on the information after getting information from the department concerned.
Mokal walked out of the house over the alleged non-seriousness of the department concerned. He said questions have been posed to the department concerned for several months, but the parliamentary secretaries or ministers avoid coming to the House. He added that even if they do turn up, they are usually caught unawares.
On Monday, legislators of both the treasury and opposition benches were left surprised after the deputy speaker intimated the house about the decision of the advisory committee which said that the presence of those legislators who remain on their seats during proceedings will be marked. The deputy speaker made it clear that the decision was taken to avoid the absence of legislators and to discourage those MPAs who showed up to the house to merely mark their attendance before promptly disappearing. The house was ultimately adjourned till 10am on Tuesday.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2018.