LAHORE - The news of Speaker Sindh Assembly Agha Siraj Durrani’s arrest by NAB authorities was received with alarm in the Punjab Assembly yesterday.

Speaker Punjab Assembly Ch Parvez Elahi was chairing the session when he got the news of his counterpart’s arrest in the federal capital. He retired to his chamber to gather more information about the development. It was disturbing news indeed. After all, the anti-graft body is in the process of preparing references against the PML-Q leaders as well.

In the meanwhile, officers in the Assembly’s legal branch also engaged in conversation looking into the possible lacunas in the recent legislation empowering the Assembly Speaker to issue production orders of an Assembly member. What if the news of Speaker Punjab Assembly’s arrest comes some day? This was the question disturbing the legal minds. Their worries were correct since there is no provision in the law for any authority empowered to issue the production orders of the custodian of the House. Deputy Speaker cannot issue such orders in respect of the Speaker as per the present law. Hopefully, the new discussion would come to some conclusion in the days to come.

Also, Aleem Khan’s arrival at the Punjab Assembly was quite a scene to watch. His lunch arrived before he came to the Assembly. It was drizzling when Aleem entered the Assembly premises amid continuous shower in the form of rose petals managed by his supporters.

The ex-minister was a free man inside the Assembly. He had his lunch (brought from home) first before coming to the House. Aleem Khan was welcomed in the House amid desk-thumbing by his colleagues. Speaker Parvez Elahi and Law Minister Basharat Raja also greeted him. He sat next to the law minister, a seat now allocated to the PML-Q minister, Bao Rizwan. It was an obvious violation of the House’ discipline, but the Chair ignored it as it was his first day after his arrest by the NAB.

As against all expectations, Aleem did not speak a word on the Assembly floor despite having the option to speak on a point of order. But he did talk to the media outside the Assembly. He pleaded not guilty in a brief chat with the reporters. After the session was over, Aleem went to Speaker’s chamber to personally thank him for issuing his production orders.

During the question hour, Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi continued with his new-found obsession for grilling the ministers belonging to the PTI. Food Minister Sami Ullah Khan was seen struggling hard as usual to give satisfactory answers to the questions put by the Chair itself. It was only one time during the entire question hour that the Speaker did not press hard on the minister. An answer to a question asked by Uzma Kardar of the PTI was found to be perfect. She made two futile attempts to ask a supplementary question but the Speaker insisted that the written answer covered all her concerns.

It was also during the question hour that assembly reporters left the Press Gallery as a token of protest against government’s apathy to the plight of media workers. It is a tradition that when the press gallery boycotts assembly proceedings, the Speaker sends a minister or two to talk to the protesting journalists. Sensing that Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan was about to leave the House to meet the journalists, the Speaker stopped him from doing so. “They would run away [seeing you coming towards them].” the Chair remarked with a smile on his face. Then he asked Minister for Housing Mian Mahmoodur Rashid to bring the journalists back. It was an obvious case of casting aspersions on the performance of the Information Minister whose main job is to handle the media affairs.

 

Legislation

It was a day of legislation in the Punjab Assembly. A pre-budget debate was also on the agenda of Assembly business on Wednesday, but it could not take place due to lack of quorum. The Assembly passed “The Punjab Prevention of Conflict Bill” with majority vote. This legislation aims at preventing and minimizing the possibility of conflicts arising between the private interests and public duties of public office holders. It also provides for the resolution of these conflicts besides giving equal opportunities of doing business to the relatives of public office holders. The government thinks that relatives of the public office holders cannot be barred from legal business activities.