LAHORE: The PML-N on Wednesday had to face the taunt of a mistake it committed in the last 10 years of its rule in Punjab by not amending the rules of business to empower the speaker to issue production orders of any arrested MPA, allowing the treasury to easily deny production of Khwaja Salman Rafique.
And the choice of the PML-N MPAs to condemn, during the Punjab Assembly session, the disembarking of their leader Hamza Shahbaz from a plane on Tuesday also embarrassed them as Law Minister Raja Basharat said they were acting like slaves by protesting against the disembarking of the son of the elite PML-N family while ignoring a common worker’s (Khwaja’s) arrest.
The PML-N MPAs put up with the embarrassment and preferred to agree with the offer of the law minister and Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari to “sit together and find a way to remove the hurdle.”
“The excuse that Khwaja Salman could not be produced in the Punjab Assembly because the rules of business did not allow it means that Mr Hamza, if arrested at all, will not be able to attend the assembly session and tell his tale like his father did in the National Assembly,” remarked a minister.
PML-N’s Nadeem Kamran told Dawn after the session that the rules of business did not allow the production of an arrested MPA in the house but the speaker had the discretionary powers to issue a production order. Raja Basharat said the speaker did not have any such authority because the rule did not in the first instance provide for any such action.
Failure to amend rules of business comes back to haunt party
Both the treasury and the opposition which had discussed the issue before the start of the session were also expected to ponder over it after it was adjourned till Wednesday morning.
The debate on the issue was started by PML-N’s Waris Kalloo on a point of order, repeating how Mr Hamza was disembarked from a plane by the FIA in violation of the Constitution. “If not stopped, you will also face the rogue attitude which we are braving with patience,” he said, describing the action as a breach of the privilege of the house.
Mr Kalloo’s colleague Tahir Khalil Sandhu said Mr Hamza was disembarked without any cogent reason. “We should not go to the point of no return. Mr Zulfi Bukhari whose name was on the ECL has been allowed to go abroad but Mr Hamza has been disallowed the facility despite the fact that he did not face any restriction,” he said.
The law minister said the FIA and the NAB were federal entities and the disembarking of Mr Hamza was not a provincial assembly issue. “Let us handle affairs which are under our ambit,” he said.
Mr Sandhu questioned if the arrests by the NAB were not a provincial assembly subject, why the information minister was predicting arrests of more people, the deputy speaker responded by saying that the rules of business were not amended over the years and “we have to form a committee to do the needful.” He was referring to the request to have Khwaja Salman produced in the assembly.
The law minister agreed to a request to ask the federal government why Mr Hamza was disembarked, but PPP’s Hasan Murtaza said the PML-N was facing what it did in the past to others. “The PML-N did not delete Articles 62, 63 from the Constitution or amend the Punjab Assembly rules of business despite our requests. Perhaps they thought they would remain in power forever,” he said.
He said the PTI government was treading a wrong path. “You look like a NAB spokesperson the way you talk to the media. We have never been against accountability but do not make it look like vengeance. Otherwise you will have to face it in future too,” he said.
Mr Kalloo desired to move a resolution to condemn the treatment given to Mr Hamza, prompting the law minister to hit back with the taunt that the PML-N was paying for its own follies. “They are protesting against the disembarking of Hamza, the son of Shahbaz Sharif, and ignoring the arrest of a worker, Khwaja Salman,” he said.
Former speaker Rana Iqbal said his colleagues intended to also discuss the arrest of Khwaja Salman and were referring to the humiliation of Mr Hamza because of his status as the leader of the opposition.
The law minister asked Rana Iqbal as to why he did not think of amending the rules during his 10-year stint as the speaker. “You did not issue production orders of Maulana Azam Tariq, Ashraf Sohna and Moonis Elahi. Was this not victimisation,” he asked.
He asked Mr Kalloo to give him draft of the resolution he wanted to move in the house so that he could check if there was any illegality in the disembarking of Mr Hamza.
As the debate was over, the law minister briskly introduced the first set of the government’s six laws in the house. They were: The Punjab Prevention of Conflict of Interest Bill, The Punjab Right to Public Services Bill, The Punjab Domestic Workers Bill, The Punjab Skills Development Authority Bill, The Punjab Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (Amendment) Bill, and the Punjab Board of Technical Education (Amendment) Bill.
The deputy speaker referred them to the special committee for report in two months and adjourned the session till Thursday morning.
Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018