Assembly spectacle

Published Mar 12, 2011 08:07pm

WHO knew Punjab's MPAs were bursting with such creativity and artistic talent? Armed with every variety of lota , from plastic lotas for hurling at enemies to clay ones for smashing, from lota finger puppets to lota footballs to drawings of lotas , the provincial assembly's opposition benches — now including the PPP — pulled out all the stops on Friday. Decorum, or, for that matter, effectiveness, did not seem to be a priority in their effort to protest the appearance on the treasury benches of the PML-Q splinter group, the Unification Bloc. Nor did their inventiveness stop at employing as a weapon every conceivable form of the humble household object. Verbal insults from both opposition and treasury benches against the other's leaders added colour to the proceedings. In the midst of this circus, some well-meaning MPAs thought they would try to get a resolution passed to condemn the assassination of minorities' affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti. It seems to have escaped them that creating pandemonium and playing football were the only things the Punjab Assembly wanted to achieve on the first day of its current session.

Bizarre comedy aside, however, the day's events highlighted some very serious issues that need to be tackled in an equally serious manner. This was the first day of business since the PPP and PML-N parted in Punjab, and it hardly set a promising precedent for the role the former party aspires to play as the opposition. Will the PPP's MPAs simply use their new position to complain about their political foes, or will they use this opportunity to demand the improved governance they had claimed they were not being allowed to deliver when serving as coalition partners? Another serious matter has to do with the charge of defection by the Unification Bloc. It remains a matter of debate whether or not the constitution calls for disqualification when a substantial number of lawmakers leave one party for another. Given the legal complexity of the issue, it would be far more constructive for the provincial opposition to seek a judicial opinion rather than launch verbal and physical attacks in the assembly, even if these provide some much-needed comic relief.

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