The Punjab Assembly’s 33rd session, the last 10 days of which saw nothing but chaos, was prorogued on Monday.
Treasury and opposition continued to bicker on the last day. This time the bone of contention was the absence of the chief minister from the House despite assurances by Rana Sanaullah on Friday.
The Punjab Assembly met at 4:30pm, an hour and a half later than the scheduled time, after a two-day break.
The agenda, which included debating the PIC tragedy, was ignored. Deputy Speaker Rana Mashhood, who was in the chair, tried to restore some semblance of order to the proceedings but failed.
Rising on a point of order, leader of the Opposition Raja Riaz said that Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan and Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal had promised on Friday that Shahbaz Sharif would come to the House on Monday to brief the members about the PIC fiasco. He said it was “regrettable” that Sharif had not come to the House, again.
Riaz said that the opposition was thinking of moving a privilege motion against what he called was the chief minister’s and Sanaullah’s “stubbornness”.
Sanaullah, while responding to Riaz’s criticism, said that the chief minister’s appearance had been conditional on Riaz delivering a speech about the PIC fiasco.
Since Riaz did not discuss the issue on Friday, said Sanaullah, there was no need for the chief minister to come to the House. Should the chief minister come to the House to answer the speeches on Friday session during which there were chants of “Lota” and “Handi” and nothing else, he said.
Sanaullah then told Riaz to start his speech. He assured Riaz that the chief minister would come to the House once Riaz was done. Riaz, on the other hand, kept on insisting that his speech would fall on deaf ears if only Sanaullah’s was hearing it.
The squabbling went on for more than 30 minutes. Members from both sides also jumped in, some with advice and some to add fuel to the fire.
PML-N’s Saeed Akbar Niwani said that under the rules, the chief minister could not be forced into coming to the House. He suggested that Riaz start his speech. The health secretary would answer all questions, Niwani said.
PPP’s Ashraf Sohna asked Sharif to come to the House and reveal the name of the “conspirator” who he says had asked the foreign experts, the Punjab government had invited to help with the dengue fever, to leave the country. “Why doesn’t Sharif come and tell the House while he is ready to talk in court? What is his [special] relationship to the courts?” he said.
PML-N’s Zaeem Qadri called Sharif a “democratic person who often fights for the supremacy of the parliament”. He warned Sohna against doubting the judiciary, “The PPP, for selfish reasons, wants to malign the courts, which is dangerous for the country.”
At this point, Sanaullah rose again and asked Riaz to start his speech. “The chief minister will answer your questions either today or at the next session,” he said.
Riaz said he would start the debate if the session could continue. The deputy speaker informed the House that the governor had issued the notification to prorogue the session. He said that he could do nothing about it. Riaz then asked that the health minister be brought to the House. The demand was ignored, leading to a walkout by most PPP members.
The quorum was then pointed out by Sajida Meer and the chair announced that the session was prorogued.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2012.
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