LAHORE: Except for a brief speech by the PPP’s Hasan Murtaza containing taunts for the government and a mention of the departure of PML-N supremo Mian Nawaz Sharif to UK, Punjab Assembly’s session on Tuesday was a dull affair, abruptly ending because of short quorum without completing the day’s agenda.

The session had started nearly two hour late by its scheduled time. Its major time was consumed by the question hour on health during which minister Dr Yasmin Rashid looked irritated over a few supplementary questions by some opposition members. A PML-N woman MPA gave her a matching reply.

Law minister Raja Basharat and prosecution minister Chaudhry Zaheer remained composed while facing the taunts and insinuations by the opposition. When some of their women colleagues reacted, the ministers stopped them from doing so.

Leader of the Opposition Hamza Shehbaz and former health minister Khawaja Salman Rafique who were summoned from jail for the session by the speaker on production orders, sat in the house for a while. They left as soon as Mr Hasan Murtaza ended his speech. Others on the opposition benches followed the suit and pointed out short quorum before leaving.

Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari ordered tolling of bells for five minutes and afterwards adjourned the session till Wednesday (today) because of short quorum. The left over agenda included introduction of the Punjab Provincial Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019.

In his speech, Mr Murtaza said the tragedy was that one was required to die to prove one’s illness. He regretted that the treasury benches had made fun of Nawaz Sharif’s illness, saying certain turncoats had “degraded the house”. Without mentioning his party leader Asif Zardari, he said, “The political prisoner was not seeking any mercy, he is asking for his trial, or pardon if found innocent.”

He complained that the government did not allow him to visit his party leaders in jail and finally the permission was granted by the court. “We are a party of martyrs, we don’t beg mercy,” he said, asking as to why Mr Zaradri’s cases had been transferred to Punjab for trial. “Do they want to give another dead body to Sindh,” he said.

Narrating a ‘joke’, he said (without naming anyone) that “someone” was repeating that one would not give any NRO (show leniency) to someone. “Someone needing the NRO has got it, and the authority concerned has given it. But he is repeating that he will not give the NRO,” he said.

PML-N’s Khalil Tahir Sidhu mentioned as to how former law minister Rana Sanaullah was not being allowed to talk to the media, though he was not a convict. “And one could be termed convict legally when one exhausts all legal options. Keep in mind the future, your fate can be reversed,” he said.

Earlier, replying to queries by members, Dr Yasmin Rashid said Lahore’s Children Hospital had just six paediatric surgeons. And 23 seats were vacant because of lack of such doctors. “We have advertised these posts several times but no one has applied for it, the reason being that we do not have paediatric surgeons,” she said.

She nevertheless hoped that such surgeon would soon be available because of the corrected and sped up post-graduate training the government had arranged for.

Replying to a similar question about the Faisalabad Institute of Cardiology, she said 453 vacancies of doctors and paramedical staff were vacant there and efforts were being made to fill these slots. Still, she said, there was a dearth of interventionist cardiologists at the FIC.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2019

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