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In a rare move, chair uses ‘discretion’ to violate House rules

Updated December 12, 2018

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Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari created history on Tuesday. ─ Photo courtesy Facebook
Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari created history on Tuesday. ─ Photo courtesy Facebook

LAHORE: Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari created history on Tuesday by violating House rules when he announced suspension of rules which he cannot as per Rule 234 of the assembly, and allowed a treasury member to move a resolution on Human Rights Day.

Rule 234, which allows such suspensions, states: “Whenever any inconsistency or difficulty arises in the application of these rules, a member may, with the consent of the speaker, move that any rule may be suspended in its application to a particular motion before the assembly, and if the motion is carried, the rule in question shall stand so suspended.”

On Tuesday, instead of the member making a request, the deputy speaker used his ‘discretion’.

The speaker can only act on the request of a member, which is normally the law and parliamentary affairs minister.

Instead, the chair first extended the time of proceedings when the house finished the day’s agenda and then announced suspension of business to allow Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MPA Mussarat Jamshed Cheema to read her resolution.

Though PTI’s Mian Aslam Iqbal later defended the deputy speaker’s decision in the lobby, saying since he was in charge, he could do so, but PML-N’s Sheikh Allauddin, a veteran in parliamentary business, did not agree: “The chair cannot do this; the rule is very much clear. But since rules have lost relevance for the PTI, one can only lament.”

The resolution, which caused the frenzy, stated: “Article 25 of the constitution grants equal rights to all citizens. This house requests the federal government to declare 2019 as year for awareness on human rights and be dedicated to ensuring all these rights. The federal government should also conduct seminars and other programmes to raise the level of awareness.”

Earlier, the house also witnessed a five-minute boycott by the opposition when Agriculture Minister Nauman Langrial opposed a resolution seeking federal subsidy on tubewells. Law Minister Raja Basharat tried to control the damage, saying that the PTI was working on a comprehensive agriculture policy and subsidies were part of the plan. However, the opposition walked out of the house. The chair asked ministers Chaudhry Zaheeruddin and Mian Aslam Iqbal to convince the opposition to return, which they did.

The issue of lawyers’ strike in major cities of Punjab, which entered its 27th day, also came under discussion when three opposition members belonging to Faisalabad and Gujranwala tried to move resolutions in favour of the demand of setting up of high court benches in their respective cities.

Minister Basharat, without opposing the moving of the resolution, said that the opposition must realise that setting up benches was the prerogative of the chief justice of Lahore High Court, and the Punjab government was providing its input on the issue.

Opposition’s Tahir Sindhu, himself a lawyer, however, did not agree with the law minister. “It has to be the cabinet’s decision followed up by the governor and has nothing to do with the chief justice. The PML-N government already took a decision and sent a summary to the governor, who should act.”

The chair adjourned the proceedings for Wednesday (today) after the day’s agenda finished.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2018