LAHORE: The opposition on Monday caught the treasury on the wrong foot as it got the decision of Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who nominated Mian Shafi Muhammad to preside over the session in his absence since he is acting as governor, reversed, accusing him of arrogating the right of the House and committing a sheer illegality.
It all started as soon as the House began its proceedings at 4.25pm, instead of 2pm, and Mian Shafi occupied the speaker’s chair. The opposition wondered how he could be sitting there. Malik Ahmed Khan of the opposition called it sheer illegality and sought explanation from the minister for law and parliamentary affairs.
The minister tried to justify the new occupant, saying that Speaker Pervaiz Elahi had nominated him to preside over the session. Where did this nomination take place, if not in, and by, the House? The opposition wondered. “In his chamber,” answered the law minister. It provided new vigour to the opposition, which maintained that it was completely illegal nomination.
“Rule 13/2 of the Punjab Assembly clearly maintains that in absence of the speaker and deputy speaker, the secretary assembly would inform the House as such, announce a panel of chairmen and let the House decided who would be presiding over the session.” In the presence of such clear instructions, how can the speaker nominate a person, and that too in his discretion and chamber? It was tantamount to snatching the right of the House.
Nomination to preside over session without House approval stirs up controversy
The treasury tried to put up a defence: the only objection the opposition is trying to raise is that the speaker can nominate a person in the House, not in his chamber – speaker is speaker, whether in the House or outside, and has the right. But the defence soon collapsed as Samiullah Khan of the PML-N warned that these proceedings, involving expenditures from the provincial exchequer and legality of the proceedings, would be challenged in the court.
At this point, Law Minister Raja Bashrat conceded the rule 13/2 of the assembly needs to followed and asked the secretary to announce a panel of chairmen, and then he himself moved a motion to nominate Mian Shafi Muhammad as the one who could preside over the proceedings.
The opposition genuflected but not before posing another trouble: how about the legality of one hour of proceedings that have been presided over by the man, which involved oath of Assad Ali – a newly elected MPA from Lahore. The chair, however, came up with a solution proposed by a minister: through a ruling, it validated all proceedings that took place before the implementation of the rule 13/2, leaving the opposition again questioning as to how could an illegal occupant of the chair validate his own invalidity? But the chair was not in a mood to oblige and it immediately took up the question hour.
The number started thinning as soon as the controversy settled down and it was more of a matter of time before anyone could point out the quorum and the moment came around 7.25pm when Shazia Abid of the PPP pointed out quorum, winding up the proceedings for the day. The House would now meet on Tuesday (today) morning.
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2019