Barbs fly in Punjab PA over May 9 arrests

Opposition threatens to block budget session without answers on ‘witch-hunt’

Rana Yasif June 08, 2024


The Punjab Assembly witnessed a heated exchange between the Treasury and Opposition benches over allegations of political arrests and the influence of the establishment in their respective rises to power.

The debate intensified following the Opposition’s query about the government's involvement in the repeated arrests related to the May 9 cases.

Rather than addressing the query directly, the Treasury suggested the Opposition seek justice from judges they claim are biased towards PTI's founding chairman, Imran Khan. This deflection only fuelled the Opposition’s frustration.

Opposition leader Ahmad Khan Bhachar questioned the arrests of PTI leaders, workers, and supporters, warning the provincial government that the budget session would not proceed unless clarity was provided on who was behind these arrests.

Bhachar demanded the Punjab government state clearly if it was responsible for the arrests.

The situation escalated further when PML-N's Provincial Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman referred to the former Chief of Army Staff, General (Retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa, as the "father" of PTI. This remark incited a strong reaction from the Opposition, who highlighted PML-N’s historical reliance on the establishment for political power.

Bhachar responded by reminding the House that it was Nawaz Sharif who first used the term "father" to describe the then-dictator Ziaul Haq, leading to a chorus of slogans from both sides. The Opposition chanted "Boot polish, boot polish," while the Treasury accused the Opposition of accepting Bajwa’s support to ascend to power.

Bhachar accused the Treasury of disrupting the House’s atmosphere with ‘non-parliamentary’ language and reiterated his demand for the government to clarify its role in the arrests. He threatened that the budget session would be obstructed if answers were not provided. In response, Shujaur Rehman challenged the Opposition to take their grievances to the judges they claim are biased towards Imran Khan.

The debate then shifted focus to Adiyala Jail. The Treasury benches claimed that Imran Khan was being provided with all necessary facilities, but the Opposition countered this, stating that Khan was confined to a small, inadequate room. They accused the government of misleading the public about the conditions of his detention.

During the session, the Opposition pointed out a lack of quorum. Acting Speaker Zaheer Iqbal Channar ordered the bells to be rung for five minutes, but the Treasury failed to muster the required number of members. Consequently, the acting speaker adjourned the House until June 10 at 3 pm.

The clash in the Punjab Assembly reflected the deep-seated tensions between the ruling PML-N and the PTI, particularly over issues of judicial impartiality and the role of the establishment in politics. As both sides continue to accuse each other of leveraging the establishment for political gain, the Assembly remains a battleground for broader national debates about governance, justice, and democratic integrity.

The budget session's future now hangs in the balance as both sides prepare for further confrontations. Whether the government will provide the clarity demanded by the Opposition, or if the stalemate will continue, remains to be seen.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2024.


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