ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) and Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) — both independent parliamentary observer groups — have called for transparent investigations through a process decided by the parliamentary leaders into the recent detestable episode in Punjab Assembly.

In a joint statement, Pildat and Fafen said the members found to have been involved in an unruly conduct may be proceeded against under the rules of procedure and a strict action should be taken against relevant officials of the secretariat for negligence in performing their duties.

They expressed serious concern over the non-enforcement of clearly laid-out security protocols, as envisioned by the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab 1997, leading to disorder and violence on the floor of the assembly during the proceedings for chief minister’s election on April 16.

“The events in Punjab Assembly reflected a failure of multiple layers of regulatory protections and checks that have been instituted to ensure compliance of rules by the secretariat as well as to deter such incidents by belligerent members,” the statement added.

Events during CM’s election show failure of regulatory checks; both urge parliament to institute safeguards

The checks instituted to insulate the functioning of the secretariat from political influences and ensure complete compliance with the rules of procedures needed to be strengthened to avoid similar situations in future, it was noted.

In addition, the joint statement observed, the recent developments in Islamabad and Lahore also reinforced the need for adequate constitutional protections to ensure that its Articles 66 and 69 are not used to encourage steps that are otherwise ultra vires to clearly laid-out constitutional provisions.

Without compromising the supremacy of the elected houses that need to be further strengthened, the observer groups urged parliament to also institute sufficient safeguards to protect the sanctity of the Constitution from which all organs of the state, including parliament, drew their legitimacy and powers.

The two groups said the acts of violence perpetrated by the members against the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker, who was presiding over the session as per the orders of the Lahore High Court, and other distinguished members, were highly condemnable and must be immediately taken cognizance of under the relevant penal provisions. The unfortunate happenings inside the Punjab Assembly emanated largely from negligence by the assembly secretariat staffer who were duty-bound to provide all assistance to the deputy speaker in the performance of his responsibilities and to ensure order as per Rule 210(5) in the absence of the speaker.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2022

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