LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly on Monday turned into an inferno of partisan rancour with both sides shouting each other down, using all kinds of derogatory titles for each other and the rival leaders for well over an hour before the Chair prorogued the session.
As soon as the House ended its proceedings after 90-minute sitting, the verbal fight shifted to the assembly lawns, where both sides, addressing routinely gathered media, resumed their tirades against each other.
The House was convened by the Opposition for its eleventh sitting and as soon as it was done with recitation from the Holy Quran, it questioned non-issuance of production orders of its leader Hamza Shahbaz and one of its members Salman Raqfiue – the purpose of its convening the House. The charge was led by former speaker Rana Iqbal.
The Chair, occupied by Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari, however, asked them to continue with the agenda and that the question could be dealt later, ordering start of the Question Hour. But only after first of the 25 questions for the day on primary health care was taken up, Rana Mashhood of the Opposition again stood on a point of order and raised the issue of two jailed colleagues, whom the Chair had not called for the session.
Interpreting the clause relevant to the issuance of production order in his own way, Mashhood roared: “According to the rules, the production orders should have been issued and the Chair had insulted the House and its traditions by not calling the members. It is not a matter of two individuals, but of the House and its collective respect, which have been violated”.
As soon as Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, a full-time cabinet member, stood up to respond, the Opposition kicked off a verbal storm. For the next few minutes, nothing was audible in the House. He sat down to let Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Basharat Raja explain official point of view: “The Rules of Business do not necessitate production order, but leave it to discretion of the Chair. If speaker deems it necessary to have their presence [in the House] for specific sitting and specific purpose, he can [issue the orders]. But, the Opposition cannot demand it as a right,” the minister said.
It again drew a sharp reaction; sloganeering by the Opposition accusing the ruling coalition of discrimination and double standards. However, it was equally responded by the Treasury and the House presented, what the Chair called: “primary school scenario.”
The Chair also tried to refer to Rule 79-A, which left it to its discretion to call any incarcerated member for a specific requirement. Undeterred, Mashhood again stood up to remind the Chair that Aleem Khan was jailed for 110 days, but he spent 80 days in the House on the production order. He said to send the former senior minister back, the jail gates would be opened as late as 11pm, regretting that these privileges were only reserved for the Treasury members and the Opposition was singled out for all kinds of discriminatory treatment.
Chohan again took the mike and stocked off yet another round of sloganeering. He, however, was unstoppable: “The production order facility was not for murderers, money launderers and the corrupt. It is, rather, reserved only for political prisoners.” In total, Chohan tried to take the mike 14 times but was hooted down each time.
The cacophony was still on when the Chair announced death of the proceedings sine die, killing the effort of the Opposition to convene the House for the purpose of bringing its members for longer period of time.
Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2019