LAHORE, June 5: Starting two hours and 20 minutes behind its schedule, the first sitting of the Punjab Assembly’s 38th session witnessed low attendance, with 52 legislators present at the outset and only 27 when it was adjourned.

Dual nationality and ‘dual religion’ of provincial finance minister Rana Asif Mehmood remained one of issues of the proceedings as Q League’s Samina Khawar Hayat threatened not to allow Rana to present the provincial budget.

Speaker Rana Iqbal barred the opposition MPAs from discussing Rana Asif in his absence and refused to issue any directions against the finance minister until a court decision on his reported dual nationality as both the opposition and treasury exchanged hot words and slogans on the issue.

Female members of the treasury raised slogans to prevent the opposition from speaking against Rana Asif.

Another highlight of the proceedings was refusal of Mujtaba Gilani to vacate the seat of the opposition leader. The chair had directed the prime minister’s brother not to take the opposition leader’s seat as this and the house leader’s one remained vacant in the absence of their legal occupiers.

But Mujtaba ignored the direction and continued occupying the seat for around 20 minutes as the speaker overlooked the MPA’s act.

This prompted a senior colleague to comment that Gilanis are stubborn (as Yousaf Raza Gilani is also sticking to his seat despite his conviction by the Supreme Court).

Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal threatened Ehsan Naulatia to force him out of the house by saying he (the chair) had sergeant-at-arms at his disposal when the PPP MPA continuously insisted that the chair was violating the rules of procedure by allowing a parliamentary secretary to reply privilege motions in the absence of the minister concerned.

But Naulatia could not present relevant rules to support his contention.

The MPA later told Dawn that he wanted to say that relevant parliamentary secretary should give the reply but got confused.

He said Tahir Khalil Sandhu, parliamentary secretary for law, was responding to a privilege motion regarding home department.

The motion had been moved by PML-Q’s Zobia Rubab Malik against the Gulshan-i-Iqbal SHO.

The mover got emotional after hearing the reply submitted by the police department, describing it as a pack of lies. In her fury, she would not listen that the chair had referred her motion to the committee and threatened to walk out of the house to protest the ‘wrong’ reply.

PPP’s Riffat Sultana Dar lamented that during a protest against loadshedding, people pelted her house in Faisalabad with stones and the police did not come to her rescue despite her calls to 15.

She wondered why the people targeted her as she was neither a Wapda officer nor part of the federal government. On her demand, the speaker directed Sandhu to seek a report from the police department.

During the question hour, members from both the sides alleged that wrong replies were being submitted to the house by the education department.

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