LAHORE: Opposition in the Punjab Assembly mainly representing the PML-N unnerved Industries Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal on Thursday, irritating him to the point of prematurely ending his opening speech on price hike in the province, and leaving the House in anger.

The opposition had during the session interrupted the long speech of the minister citing steps being taken to control inflation in the province with repeated points out of order, saying a minister could under the rules only open a debate with brief statement and deliver a concluding speech after listening to other members in the house on a topic.

Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari said the minister had some engagement and requested prior permission in writing.

Mr Iqbal had stopped his speech while saying he was doing so on the order of Mr Mazari. Before that he thumped his desk in anger saying “this is no way (repeated interventions), we also will not allow you to speak in the house.”

Former Speaker Rana Iqbal said the minister was a senior parliamentarian and it was not decent for him to hurl threats. He said the minister should wind up his speech in a good manner as it was the right of the opposition to criticise (the government).

The minister was repeatedly supported by his colleagues Raja Basharat and Chaudhry Zaheer but to no avail. He continued to drag on in the face of repeated objections by the opposition on the duration of his speech.

Among the opposition members were senior parliamentarians like Sheikh Allauddin, Khalil Tahir Sandhu and Samiullah Khan. But MPA Agha Ali Haider particularly irritated not only the minister but also some PTI women MPAs while calling one of them auntie. He did apologise but not in plain words.

Law Minister Raja Basharat taunted that the opposition was not serious in discussing the very important matter of price hike which was related to people. Its lack of seriousness could also be checked by it absence during legislation.

PML-N’s Samiullah Khan replied that some circles were challenging laws being made by the present government in courts because they were illegally made. He alleged that the laws were approved by the standing committees without voting or allowing the opposition to speak on them. The house referred three bills to the committee on Wednesday which did not exist, he alleged.

The law minister said the last government promulgated 106 ordinances in five years which was a shame for the province.

Mian Aslam Iqbal in his speech admitted that the prices of essential times had gone up but also recounted steps being taken by the governments to control them.

The steps included ending the role of middlemen, activating price magistrates, opening fair prices shops, determining the prices of ghee and flour in consultation with millers. He also mentioned creation of the Price Control Authority to permanently deal with inflation. Issuance of ration cards was also being considered, he said, adding model bazaars at tehsil level were being introduced to provide low cost items of daily use to people.

He said the prices of tomato skyrocketed after the crop in Sindh damaged. Its prices were being lowered as the federal government had allowed its import form Iran.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2019

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