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LAHORE: The process for formation of standing committees in the Punjab Assembly has started formally and the Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Raja Basharat on Wednesday requested the leader of opposition to formally nominate members for these bodies.

Earlier, when the law minister tried to present “the Punjab Occupational Safety and Health Bill 2019,” Samiullah Khan of the PML-N asked the chair to refer the bill to yet-to-be-formed standing committee instead of special committee. The chair deferred the bill, pending formation of the committees.

The House also witnessed another consensus moment when the opposition came to the defence of the law minister on the issue of a call, which he made to medical superintendent of a Rawalpindi hospital, asking him for the transfer of a doctor who was daughter of Hanif Abbassi, a PML-N politician.

On a point of order, Azma Zahid Bukhari of the PML-N took up the matter, saying the doctor had been forced to resign and stay home, spoiling her career and studies. “The MS committed cyber crime by releasing the call to the media but no action has so far been taken. What has the health minister been waiting for? If you will let everyone off the hook like the MS, how can the government be run. How will Naya Pakistan be built?” Ms Bukhari wondered.

Punjab health minister Ms Yasmin Rashid tried to put event in perspective when she said that the young lady doctor was just transferred to the emergency ward. “But she simple refused to obey the official orders and stopped coming to the hospital, which no rules allow. The MS says that all his calls are recorded and he did not do it for the particular call. But he denies releasing it to the media. However, a board of inquiry is looking into the matter and, if found guilty, the doctor would be booked under the relevant law,” she said.

Chohan apologises for badmouthing the media

Undeterred, the opposition wondered how the MS could deny releasing the recording of the call to the media, which was made from his personal mobile phone. The treasury benches also supported booking of the doctor, but stopped short of demanding his outright removal from the service as the health minister had her own views on the issue. It consumed a good one hour of the House that had just recovered from a contentious issue involving information minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan.

Chohan faced an angry media outside the assembly when he entered the premises and tried to make usual address to the journalists outside the House. The journalists not only boycotted his address but also raised slogans against him for badmouthing the media a day earlier. After a few minutes of debate with journalists outside, he left for the House.

As soon as Mr Chohan entered the House, the journalists in the press gallery walked out in protest. The opposition followed the journalists and joined them on the stairs of the House, condemning the minister’s remarks.

Chaudhry Zaheer-ud-Din, representing the treasury, came to pacify the journalists and get them back into the gallery, assuring that the minister would say “sorry” in the House. The journalists returned and the minister expressed his remorse, saying that his wife was not feeling well and he had just received the news of her fainting when the altercation took place. Admitting he mishandled the situation, he said for that he felt sorry.

The House was later adjourned for Thursday morning.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2019