LAHORE - The Punjab Assembly on Friday witnessed a rare scene of start of budget debate without the Opposition, which stayed away from the proceedings to protest against suspension of six legislators.

It was the first such incident in the parliamentary history of the Assembly when the Leader of the Opposition had not opened the house debate on the provincial budget. Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi had barred entry of six opposition members in the House for the ongoing session on charges of hooliganism, attacking Assembly secretary and damaging public property during presentation of budget last Tuesday. Led by Opposition Leader Hamza Shahbaz, PML-N’s legislators staged protest at the PA stairs against suspension of Malik Waheed, Yasin Amer Sohal, Pir Ashraf Rasool, Mirza Javed, Tariq Gill and Zebunnisa Awan. The Opposition announced to continue boycott of the proceedings till restoration of all suspended legislators. The protesting legislators chanted slogans against Prime Minister Imran Khan and Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi, and for release of Shahbaz Sharif.

The tertiary held series of talks with the Opposition for keeping the tradition intact that led to delay in the start of the proceedings.

After failure of talks, the proceedings started two hours and 10 minutes beyond the scheduled time with Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Mohammad Mazari in the chair. After the start of the session, the tertiary did not bother to persuade the protesting Opposition to come to the House for keeping tradition intact.

Minister for Public Prosecution Ch Zaheer-ud-Din, Law minster Raja Basharat and Information Minister Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chohan blamed the Opposition of damaging the sanctity of the House.

Ch Zaheer-ud-Din rowdism and damage of assembly furniture was uncivilized and undemocratic attitude which was highly condemnable.

Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chohan suggested constitution of a House committee to assess damage due to Opposition protest in the House. He said that Rs0.9 million loss due to damage to the public property should be recovered from the culprits.

Raja Basharat also demanded forming a committee comprising treasury and opposition members for fixing responsibility after thoroughly examining the CCTV cameras footage. He said that the damages should be recovered from the guilty members. He said that those who had made hue and cry of democratic norms and respect to vote, were now insulting the votes by not participating the most important debate. He said that only one member of the opposition was present in the House with the sole purpose of pointing quorum. He said that it was a pity that the Opposition was not doing its real job but was here to point quorum against set tradition.

As the chair invited legislator of Rah-e-Haq Party Mohammad Moavia to take part in the debate, he refused to do so by saying it was against the tradition. He said that he would share his viewpoint after the speech of the opposition leader.

PPP’s Mumtaz Ali said that due attention should be given to the constituencies of opposition legislators. He said that the PTI regime would face tough opposition of the PPP if constituencies of its legislators were ignored.

Treasury members including Uzma Kardar and Dr Afzal termed the budget as the best possible financial management under the prevailing tough economic situation.

Mian Tahir Jamil pointed quorum, upon which the chair ordered ringing of bells. The proceedings resumed after the quorum was complete in few minutes.

The chair adjourned the session till Monday at 2pm.