LAHORE: Tackling a short quorum call and a hullabaloo by the opposition with ease, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf treasury benches in the Punjab Assembly on Thursday evening got extended the expiry date of four vital ordinances.

Law minister Raja Basharat who spearheaded the most important portion of the assembly session on Thursday also laid audit reports of four departments which Mian Shafi, who was in chair, referred to the public accounts committee for report before quickly adjourning the session till Friday morning.

This disallowed the few PML-N MPAs to reply to the law minister (in the same coin) who had severely criticised them and their leader Hamza Shahbaz when they had pointed short quorum to disrupt legislation.

It all began when the house finished other items on the agenda and the chair was apparently going to ask the law minister to start the legislation process. A few minutes ago Mr Hamza Shahbaz had arrived in the house amidst slogans “Sher Aya, Sher Aya” (Here comes the lion). The PTI benches countered this with their own slogans which usually blamed the family for corruption.

The sloganeering died down shortly and was followed by three adjournment motions. But what followed was much more than this brief bout of slogans. After sensing the beginning of the legislation, PML-N’s Samiullah Khan pointed out short quorum and Mr Hamza Shahbaz led the opposition members out of the house.

The chair ordered counting of the members and declared that the quorum was complete. Mr Samiullah, however, did not believe this and was allowed to himself count the members. He did it and said they were nearly 80, but the chair put the number at over 100, more than what was required to maintain quorum.

As the PML-N MPA left the house amidst hooting by the PTI members, the law minister began to criticise his party. He said Mr Hamza (who is imprisoned) was using his production orders (issued to allow him to attend the session) merely for advancing his politics.

Basharat said Hamza would make tall claims of democracy but had left the house after merely showing his face here when the assembly was about to begin its most important function – legislation. He had also left the house at the time of legislation on Wednesday, the minister added.

In the meantime, PML-N’s Waris Kalloo, Samiullah Khan and some others rushed to the house and started shouting. What one could understand was that they wanted to reply to the law minister who was unyielding.

In contrast, the law minister rushed through the procedure, paying no attention to the rumpus and managed to get house approval for a new lease of life for the four ordinances -- The Punjab Agricultural Marketing Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Ordinance, The Punjab Local Government (Amendment) Ordinance, The Punjab Village Panchayats and Neighbourhood Councils (Amendment) Ordinance and the Punjab Local Government (Second Amendment) Ordinance.

Earlier, responding to an adjournment motion sought to be moved by PML-N’s Sheikh Allauddin, the law minister said the government was concerned about the rising incidents of child sexual abuse in the province. It had taken several steps to apprehend the culprits and get them punished under the law.

Mr Basharat promised a new stringent law to punish the culprits if required, when the mover insisted for such legislation that could do away with “these animals” within three days.

An adjournment motion mentioning capital punishment handed down to two “minors” despite a ban on such penalties under some presidential order was kept pending for want of a proper report on the issue.

The question hour on the communication and works department appeared to be merely a customary event. MPAs mainly from the opposition objected to the replies given to their questions seeking construction or repair of highways in their respective areas, while Parliamentary Secretary Sardar Shahabuddin insisted the answers were correct.

He also invariably said the roads would be constructed and repaired as demanded by the PML-N members only after the availability of funds. “Right now there is dearth of money,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2019

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