Punjab Assembly lawmakers questioned the handing out of bulletproof vehicles owned by the provincial government on Wednesday, with several MPAs demanding that they be given such cars because they were in danger.
Responding to questions addressed to the Services and General Administration Department (S&GAD), Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that one official bulletproof vehicle, earlier assigned to Opposition Leader Raja Riaz, had been given to Senator Kamran Michael of the PML-Nawaz as he had been threatened following the murder of Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti in 2011.
Members from both the treasury and opposition benches questioned why a provincial government vehicle had been allotted to a person who had no provincial office.
Saeed Akbar Niwani of the PML-N said that a suicide bomber had killed 40 people and injured 70, including his brother Rashid, in an attack on his Bhakkar residence, yet the authorities had not given him a bulletproof car.
Syeda Majida Zaidi of the PML-Quaid said that women MPAs felt insecure after the killing of polio vaccinators in Karachi and Charsadda so they should also get bulletproof vehicles.
Sanaullah said that Niwani had not received a bulletproof car because he had not asked for one. He said that minority politicians deserved special protection because they were under threat.
Another MPA asked why a Punjab government vehicle had been assigned to the attorney general, who represented the federal government. The minister said that holders of constitutional offices were entitled to such facilities at the provincial government’s expense.
Ehsanul Haq Naulatia of the PPP said that if the allotment of a car to the attorney general was considered a precedent, then every federal department in the province would claim a car. Sanaullah said that the attorney general was an exception and his office could not be compared to other federal offices.
Naulatia also questioned why the offices at 8 Club Road had not been transformed into an IT university for women yet, as the chief minister had promised back in 2008. Sanaullah said that the Rs2 billion offices, meant to serve as the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, had been constructed by the previous Punjab government. He said that the chief minister had twice sought feasibility reports on the conversion of the offices to a university. On both occasions, the chief secretary had told him that opening a public university at the site would pose a major security threat to the several sensitive buildings on Club Road.
Naulatia also accused Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif of diverting development funds from the rest of Punjab into the Metro Bus Service project in Lahore. He said that Sharif was more the mayor of Lahore than the chief minister of the Punjab.
The assembly speaker told off Naulatia for calling the chief minister the mayor of Lahore. He told the opposition MPA to check his conduct and language or face sanctions from the speaker.
Speaking on a point of order, Sheikh Allauddin of the PML-Q Forward Bloc expressed concern about alleged criminal actions by Africans in Lahore.
He said that thousands of Africans, mainly from Nigeria and Uganda, were living in the city, particularly in Madina Colony, Gulberg and Township. He alleged that many of them were involved in drug peddling, robberies and withdrawing remittances from banks on bogus identities. He said a number of them had travelled to Pakistan on invalid visas.
Sanaullah said that any illegal immigration was the fault of the federal government, since it was responsible for issuing visas. He asked Allauddin to produce any evidence he had to substantiate his charges, at which point the matter would be brought to the attention of the city’s police chief.
Opposition members Sajida Mir and Amna Ulfat complained about the closure of Kalma Chowk, saying that this would hinder ambulance movement at three major hospitals located nearby, as well as inconvenience hundreds of thousands of commuters.
Sanaullah said that a comprehensive traffic plan had been prepared in view of the closure.
The session will resume at 10am on Thursday.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2012.