LAHORE: The opposition in the Punjab Assembly strangely seemed divided on Tuesday on the issue of production orders of Opposition Leader in the House Hamza Shahbaz and PML-N lawmaker Salman Rafique.

PML-N’s Rana Mashhood, on a point of order, requested Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi to issue production orders of Hamza and Salman. He told Mr Elahi that he had promised to take up this matter and do the needful, but even on the second day of the ongoing session, the production orders had not been issued.

Mr Elahi asked the opposition lawmaker to exercise patience, as the matter would be sorted out by sitting together. On this, PML-N lawmakers staged a walkout along with PPP members.

PPP members return soon after to help treasury maintain quorum

After one of the PML-N lawmakers pointed out quorum, the PPP members apparently refused to side with the PML-N and returned to the House only to help the struggling treasury maintain quorum.The return of the PPP lawmakers surprised many on the treasury benches. It appeared that the treasury had persuaded PPP members to return to speak on points of order to bring forth the issues they would like to highlight.

PPP parliamentary leader Hasan Murtaza drew the chair’s attention towards the murder of PPP Rawalpindi youth wing president Shahzad Awan and demanded arrest of the killers. Law Minister Basharat Raja assured the House that police would soon arrest the culprits and bring them to justice.

Another PPP MPA, Shazia Abid, said some 80 per cent crop in her area in south Punjab had been affected because of whitefly and the government had done nothing to address the issue. Agriculture Minister Nauman Langrial admitted that this was an old issue the farmers had been facing. He said the government had taken action against the dealers of fake pesticides and recovered pesticides worth Rs55 million from them.

The presence of the PPP lawmakers for 20 minutes or so helped the treasury lay four bills – Punjab Prohibition of Sheesha Smoking, Use and Sale of Crystal Ice Bill 2019; Punjab Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2019; Punjab Restriction of Manufacture, Sale, Use and Import of Polythene Bags Bill 2019; and Punjab Provincial Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019 – which were deferred by the chair on the request of the law minister.

Mr Raja asked the mover of the Punjab Prohibition of Sheesha Smoking, Use and Sale of Crystal Ice Bill 2019 to cut the portion of ‘Use and Sale of Crystal Ice’ from the Bill as it was being dealt with by the Anti-Narcotics Force.

However, in a strange move, before the House took up some resolutions, the PPP lawmakers left again. PML-N’s Tariq Gill returned only to point out quorum. This time, the treasury could not maintain the required strength and the speaker adjourned the proceedings till Thursday 3pm.

Outside the assembly, the PML-N staged a demonstration against the PTI government and shouted slogans against Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. They demanded issuance of production orders of their fellow lawmakers.

During the Question Hour, the House was told that the government was formulating service structure for Rescue 1122 personnel. Basharat Raja said recruitments would be made and a summary had been sent to the provincial cabinet for approval in this regard.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2019

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