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LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly on Thursday witnessed a rare consensus as both the Treasury and the Opposition tried to outdo each other in praising the army for laying down lives in fight against terrorism.

As soon as the House started its proceedings around 5.15pm, against the stipulated time of 2pm, the leader of opposition, Mian Mehmoodur Rashid, who had just entered the House, straight away stood up on a point of order to eulogise the army.

“Those criticising Pak Army should realise how its officers and jawans are embracing martyrdom. As the nation sleeps, these officers carry out fight against terrorism round the clock. Major Ishaq is the latest addition to the long list of those who have rendered sacrifices and a reminder of how much price the army is paying in that fight. The nation stands behind the army,” he said and within next few minutes left the House to talk to the electronic media outside.

Rana Arshad, chief whip for the treasury, picked from where the leader of the opposition left: “All of us, as a nation, are indebted to the army for fighting terror and ensuring internal peace by wining war on terror. Maj Ishaq and many others before him laid down their lives for the nation which can never be forgotten. But the credit should also be given to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who gave a go-ahead to the war on terror in June 2014.”

Dr Farzana, another treasury member, stood up to thank the army on behalf of women members of the House. Many others also wanted to speak but the Chair stopped them saying the purpose had already been served. And the House returned to normal business of Question Hour.

The hour on Finance and Labour and Human Resources generated some interest when Faiza Malik of the Opposition questioned the hefty salary drawn by the president of the Bank of Punjab. Rana Babar, parliamentary secretary on Finance, said the president was drawing Rs5.6 million salary which is lower than the salaries of the presidents of the private banks. He provided further fodder to the opposition by revealing that appointment of the president was discretion of the chief minister.

His revelation was bound to generate heat and it did. “Why the minister does not simply say that the CM is just obliging his cronies? Which other government employee is getting a package of Rs5.6 million?” she kept asking. The official defence that presidents of other banks are getting even higher salaries did not impress Ms Malik as she insisted that all other banks being mentioned as an example are private and pay whatever they can. Here, we are talking about a government-owned bank.

The Chair referred the matter to parliamentary committee as the debate lingered on and asked it to submit report within two months.

As soon as the Question Hour ended, the usual quorum crisis hit the House. Though numbers were never up to the mark as attendance had not gone beyond 50, it had dropped to 30 by the time Nabeela Hakim Ali pointed it out. Bells for five minutes could not add even a fraction to already low numbers and the Chair had no choice but to adjourn the house for Friday morning.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2017