The hallmark of the ninth session of the second parliamentary year of the Punjab Assembly was the unceremonious removal of Rana Sanaullah as law minister. His replacement, Education Minister Rana Mashhood Khan, will now conclude the budget session for the coming fiscal year.
The 10-day parliamentary session, which will resume on Monday (today), will be conducted without Sanaullah and the former principal secretary to chief minister who was also monitor of the house. Both of them were removed from their positions after the June 17 Model Town incident in which nine Pakistan Awami Tehreek workers were killed.
Mashhood, who has been given the additional portfolio of law minister, will now conclude the discussion and voting on demands for grants on Monday and ensure passage of the Finance Bill 2014-2015 on Tuesday.
Sanaullah has been law minister for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government since 2008. He is distinguished for ensuring smooth proceedings in the house and defending the PML-N’s policies. During his tenure as law minister, the police were told to obey him as they would the chief executive of the province.
Former principal secretary Dr Tauqeer Shah was responsible for maintaining quorum in the house. He would stand in front of the main door of the assembly and not allow PML-N lawmakers to leave the house until the proceedings ended. Sanaullah primarily dealt with legislation matters and responded to criticism from the opposition.
In days following the 2013 general elections, several lobbies within the PML-N had urged the leadership to appoint Sanaullah as speaker in the house and Mashhood the law minister. However, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif refused. Sanaullah was also given the additional portfolio of local government and community development under which he had the Punjab Local Government Act 2013 passed in the house.
Several members of the treasury benches are of the opinion that without Sanaullah, the government will not be able to effectively respond to criticism from the opposition or treasury benches. On the other hand, several lawmakers from Lahore have welcomed Mashhood’s appointment. The PML-N leadership has said that if the judicial commission set up to probe the killing of PAT workers declared Sanaullah innocent, he could resume the charge of minister for law and local government.
General discussion on budget
It appears as if the opposition benches came unprepared to debate and discuss the budget. Of the 56 members of the opposition, only 24 participated in the general discussion on budget. Apart from Leader of Opposition Mehmoodur Rashid, none of the other members of the opposition had prepared a budget speech.
The treasury benches highlighted the opposition’s ennui and requested them to participate enthusiastically in the budget discussion.
The opposition submitted six cut-motions on various demands for grants but led the discussion on one cut-motion on the budget for the police on Friday. The house will take up their rest of the five cut motions on Monday. The criticism and debate surrounding the budget comprised of mostly old slogans and poorly delivered rhetoric.
The Punjab government has presented a Rs1.044 trillion annual budget for the coming fiscal year, with Rs345 billion reserved for the Annual Development Programme. Of the Rs345 billion allocated for development, Rs119 billion has been set aside for south Punjab. Several lawmakers from south Punjab have criticised the government for poor utilisation of development funds allocated for the region during the current fiscal year.
Lawmakers have also welcomed the government’s announcement to introduce a job quota for residents of south Punjab in government services. They said that the government should introduce legislation in this regard.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2014.
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