Reining in the bureaucracy: Punjab Assembly passes amendment bill again, overriding governor’s objections

Published August 4, 2021
Treasury and opposition members jointly supported the passing of the bill. — APP/File
Treasury and opposition members jointly supported the passing of the bill. — APP/File

LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly on Tuesday again unanimously passed the Provincial Assembly (Privileges) (Amendment) Bill 2021, overriding the objections raised by the governor to the piece of legislation earlier passed by the House on June 29.

Treasury and opposition members jointly supported the move as Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi commented that “no bureaucrat should now dare to (sic) breach privilege of the House as the bill has (automatically) become a law”.

Governor Muhammad Sarwar had sent back to the assembly the earlier bill for being in contravention to Article 66(3) and Article 10-A of the Constitution. The amendment law had added a schedule to the original 1972 Act, prescribing punishment to a bureaucrat for breach of privilege of the House, any of its committee or member and granting judicial powers to the speaker and/or the committee named by him or the House on the breach.

It had also suggested similar penalties for the newsmen but the clauses pertaining to the journalists were removed through a notification on protest by the community.

On Tuesday, the same bill was retabled by Sajid Bhatti, a lawmaker of the PML-Q, an ally of the ruling PTI, and was supported by the members across the political divide as the chair suspended the rules to postpone the Question Hour.

Congratulating the MPAs on the enactment, Mr Elahi said in the legal terms, the bill doesn’t need signatures of the governor to become a formal law. He cautioned the officialdom that none now dared breach privilege of the House. He asked the legislators to tap the phone call if any deputy commissioner phoned them so that the House could see the attitude of the bureaucracy.

“The bureaucrats will fall in line once a couple of precedents are set.”

Mr Elahi recalled that police had forcibly entered the residence of a Gujranwala MPA without warrants though his mother was seriously ill and regretted that even the Privileges Committee chairman would complain that either no officer would appear (in response to a privilege motion against him/her) or they would challenge the committee’s powers.

Amid sloganeering by the MPAs, he said he would ensure release of the development funds to the lawmakers.

The speaker urged the government to deliver now as enough time had passed (without doing any practical pro-masses work).

The PML-N’s Samiullah Khan said the governor, in a rare move, had sent back the bill under pressure from the bureaucracy.

The PPP’s Hassan Murtaza said the politicians would enact laws to facilitate working of the officialdom and the same officers would target the politicians. He said the country could not progress until and unless supremacy of parliament was accepted.

Later, the House also passed with a majority vote Qarshi University Bill, notwithstanding the opposition by Law Minister Raja Basharat and Higher Education Minister Raja Yasir Hamayun Sarfaraz as the proceedings were put off till Friday.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2021

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