LAHORE: Following its rejection of the governor’s ordinance, which clipped powers of the speaker and the secretary and placed the proceeding under the provincial secretary law, the Punjab Assembly led by Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and attended by the opposition on Tuesday amended the rules of business to “restore the autonomous status of the House.”

The amendment empowered the secretary assembly to summon and prorogue the House, as has previously been the case and so is the case with other three provincial assemblies. The secretary assembly will issue a gazette notification in this regard.

Two separate sessions of the Punjab Assembly have been going on – one led by the treasury at Aiwan-i-Iqbal and other spearheaded by the opposition at the assembly building – since mid-June, when the governor prorogued the previous session through an ordinance, called fresh one for the very next day to pass the provincial budget and also repealed powers of the speaker to summon bureaucrats.

The governor’s ordinance was later approved as an Act by the treasury session and stripped the secretary assembly of his powers to start and end proceeding through the gazette notification.

The session led by the opposition and being held at a different place, however, rejected the ordinance very next day, plunging the province into a constitutional crisis, which landed in the court and is yet to get resolved even after two weeks.

“The changes in the Rules of Business are a constitutional process, which can only be carried out by the assembly itself under the same powers. The Rules of Business also narrate the process how can these changes be made, thus the rules and changes are property of the House. An attempt was made to steal those powers through an ordinance but it was overruled by the House very next day. On Tuesday, the assembly just restored the rules of business and balance of power,” explains a member.

Apart from “correcting” this most contentious business of powers of the secretary assembly, the House also approved the setting up of a “Committee of Whole House,” as it exists in the National Assembly, Senate and Balochistan Assembly. Such a committee is formed to take up issues too important to be left to house committees with a limited membership. “When an issue requires input from the entire house, the whole house committee is the best option, where opinion of all members is equal to the opinion of the whole House,” explains one of the MPAs.

Yet another amendment empowered the speaker to announce Panel of Chairpersons, to preside over the House in his absence at “any time.” Previously, he had power to announce the panel only at the beginning of the session.

Some other changes included renaming the post of Standing Committees and Panel of Chairman. This position will now be called the Panel of Chairperson instead of the Panel of Chairman. The heads of the standing committees of the Punjab Assembly will also be called the Chairperson of the Standing Committee. Nomination papers for election of chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker have also been included in Schedule One of the Assembly Rules.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2022

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