LAHORE, June 25: The Punjab Assembly on Tuesday pledged to “bring some decency and sobriety” to the House because both these adjectives had been missing in its proceedings for quite some time due to, what Rana Sanaullah called, the “female factor”.
The promise came when PML-Q’s Aamer Sultan Cheema spoke out of turn to prick his female colleagues: “These women come to the House only to escape frictions of domestic life and vitiate the environment of the assembly,” he said.
It stoked off a customary reaction from Treasury female MPAs who termed it “insulting and chauvinistic” and sought immediate apology. The issue began to get out of control, forcing the Speaker to expunge the statement and admonish Cheema for such “rude remarks”.
Cheema, however, stuck to his guns, insisting that nothing was insulting. “It was just a statement of facts,” he added.
His leader, Mian Mehmoodur Rashid of the PTI, however, did not agree with him and took the floor to clarify: “In future, the opposition will ensure that such remarks do not get repeated from its side. We need to set an example of decency and sobriety in proceedings of the House. If someone from the opposition makes indecent remarks, the Treasury needs not to pay back in the same tone and tenor…and vice versa. The House proceedings are meant to solve people’s problems, not to settle personal scores and acrimony. The opposition promises to observe decorum in future and expects the same from the Treasury.”
Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, who chimes in as leader of the House in the absence of the chief minister, stood up to reciprocate: “The House happenings stoop to some new low because of the female domination – women on both sides trying to hoot the other down. It has changed now (a quiet reference to the PML-Q women squad, which overshadowed everything in the last assembly). From now onwards, the Treasury promises to follow the opposition in each and every positive gesture.”
Both the leader of the opposition and Treasury soon left the House. Shortly, all ministers followed their leader out of the House and the budget debate on topics like education, health and police reforms was left to lesser mortals.
Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan, minister for education, was the only ministerial exception attending the House.
The House, ever since it convened in the morning (10:35am) some 35 minutes later than the scheduled time, low attendance marked the proceedings: total attendance never went beyond 110 members, or only 30 per cent of them. Soon it dropped down to around 40 members, as debate on education started. The House escaped quorum crisis only because no one pointed it out, otherwise it could have been prorogued at any moment during the 4.25-hour proceedings.
The chief minister and the parliamentary leaders of the PML-Q, the PML-Z and the PPP did not attend the session. Only 12 members -- 10 of the PTI and two of the PML-Q -- took part in the debate on eight cut motions, which the opposition had sponsored.