LAHORE - The Treasury in Punjab Assembly Monday helplessly endured the rude and taunting temper of the opposition members who held the Assembly floor for well over one hour agitating the issue of production orders of their detained members.  It was even more challenging for the treasury benches to listen to the loud and obnoxious legislators without interrupting their speeches. They were under strict instructions from the Chair to show patience while the opposition members speak their mind.   

It was for the first time since the Assembly passed a law empowering the Speaker to issue production orders of the detained legislators that Speaker Parvez Elahi had not exercised this power before chairing an Assembly sitting.

Since the Speaker had no defense to offer for his inability to ensure the presence of Opposition leader Hamza Shahbaz in the House, he gave free hand to the Opposition to give vent to their feelings on the issue.

  At the outset of the sitting, Rana Mashhood of the PML-N stood on a point of order and sought Chair’s permission to speak. As a rule, the Speaker would not allow any point of order before completion of the Question Hour; but he made an exception to rule this time. Rana Mashhood was allowed to speak for as long as he wanted to. Awais Leghari, Sami Ullah Khan, Rana Iqbal and Hasan Murtaza were also given sufficient time. All of these members stressed the point that credibility of the House was at risk after government’s refusal to allow Hamza Shahbaz Sharif to attend the session. They told the Speaker that PTI government was trying to convert his (Speaker’s) credit of getting the law passed into discredit by not allowing the detained members to come to the House.  

Interestingly, none of the opposition members directly blamed the Speaker for non-issuance of production order of the opposition leader. “Mr Speaker, we do understand your limitations. Being part of a coalition set up has its own dynamics. But we question the government [to explain] as to what happened to a law passed after 70 years with great funfair”, Sami Uallh Khan remarked referring to the law passed by the incumbent Assembly regarding production order of its members. He also pointed out selective application of the law citing Aleem Khan’s production orders when he was in NAB’s custody.

While the treasury benches felt uneasy and occasionally tried to disrupt the speeches by opposition members, the Speaker listened to them with patience keeping a constant smile on his face. He even allowed an apparently objectionable remark against present Chairman NAB to go on air. Ordinarily, the Speaker would expunge such remarks from Assembly proceedings. While pointing out the alleged selective accountability by the accountability bureau, PML-N’s Sami Ullah Khan made mention of “Sar se pauauon tak Ahtasaab” (Accountability from top to toe) of the Chairman NAB. Sami was referring to a video which went viral on social media showing Chairman NAB talking to a lady who visited him to seek justice for her husband. Sami’s comment was so abrupt and funny that it brought smile on all the faces inside the House. It is now part of the Assembly proceedings. 

After the speeches by opposition members were over, the Speaker chose not to say a word himself on the issue. Technically speaking, the Speaker should have explained his position for his failure to issue the production orders of the detained Assembly members since it was his prerogative to do so. He asked Law Minister Raja Basharat to respond on the issue instead. The Minister assured the House that government will soon come up with a consensus policy on the matter. He also reminded the Chair that it was not binding on the Speaker under the law to issue the production orders.

Insiders, however, termed Monday’ Assembly proceedings a “fixed match”. They insisted that day’s agenda was decided in Speaker’s chamber in a meeting of the business advisory committee also attended by the opposition members.

Also, it transpired during Monday’s Assembly sitting that sometimes the Speaker may turn a deaf ear to a member pointing out lack of quorum in the House. He would only listen when the needful has been done. It happened yesterday when the Speaker allowed the law minister to lay a bill and an ordinance in the assembly amid calls by an opposition member about lack of quorum.