After a day’s hiatus, the opposition in the Punjab Assembly once again resumed its protest – this time over what they called lack of development funds for constituencies of lawmakers in the opposition.
Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan chaired the assembly session on Tuesday, which started an hour behind schedule. After the question hour, the opposition sought the speaker’s permission to raise a point of order.
Leader of Opposition Mian Mehmoodur Rashid said that on Monday Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan had stated in the house that the opposition had wanted to meet Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to discuss development funds. “That is a baseless allegation which we condemn.” Neither the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf nor other opposition parties had demanded a meeting with the chief minister on the subject.
PTI MPA Mian Aslam said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) should review its policy of ignoring elected lawmakers. MPA Dr Waseem Akhtar of the Jamaat-i-Islami said the house condemned Sanaullah’s allegations that they [JI MPAs] had had a meeting with the chief minister.
The opposition lawmakers said that the financially year had nearly ended but their constituencies were yet to see any development projects initiated by the government. They vowed that they would not let the government present the budget if development funds for their areas were not released on priority.
Rashid asked the speaker to take up their privilege motion, regarding release of development funds to opposition lawmakers, which had been with the assembly secretariat for three months.
Instead of responding to the request, the speaker proceeded with the agenda for the day. Opposition lawmakers gathered in front of the speaker’s rostrum and tore up copies of the agenda and chanted slogans against the speaker.
Later, outside the assembly, Sanaullah told journalists that on June 2 the Supreme Court would hear a petition in which it would decide whether development funds not reflected in the Annual Development Programme should be used or not. He said it was obvious that Imran Khan was out to create anarchy in the country, he said.
He said the PTI chairman had supported General Pervez Musharraf in his referendum and even sat in the parliament formed by the dictator from 2002 to 2007. He said Khan was worried that if he did not win the next election, he would turn 70 without tasting power.
“Khan’s age is haunting him…that is why he is in a hurry to destabilise the government through anarchic views,” Sanaullah said.
“If Khan doesn’t stop these tactics, he might even lose the 15,000 people that he carries to every public gathering.”
The treasury benches passed four resolutions and disposed of three of the opposition’s resolutions. MPA Uzma Bukhari’s resolution on acid attack cases to be tried in terrorist courts, MPA Nighat Nasir’s resolution that culprits accused of raping children should be punished without delay, and MPA Farhana Afzal’s resolution to set up help desks in DCO offices to hear women’s issues were adopted. MPA Kanwal Dar’s resolution to increase the stipend for PTV actors and actress was also passed.
Resolutions by Dr Waesem Akhtar of the JI, and PPP’s Faiza Ahmed Malik and Meher Fayyaz were disposed off. The speaker adjourned the session until Wednesday morning.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2014.