LAHORE - Following stoppage of medicines supply to the ailing Punjab legislators, efforts are now underway to stop salaries of the provincial ministers who don’t come to House to respond to the official business.

But it is none else but the Deputy Speaker himself who is behind this move to deprive the ministers of their meager salary which is not matchable even with their counterparts in Sindh, KP and Balochistan.

The proposed new action against the lawmakers comes at the heels of a recent revelation that the sick among them are not getting free medicines as per their entitlement. Punjab Minister for Health Dr Yasmin Rashid who was supposed to inform the House about non-availability of medicines for the Assembly members did not come to the House on Tuesday.

This ‘conspiracy’ against the defaulting ministers is being hatched in connivance with the Opposition but with the exception of PPP’s Parliamentary Leader Syed Hassan Murtaza. PPP legislator from Chiniot district believes that Punjab ministers are highly under-paid and it comes as no surprise if they don’t come to the House.

“Please give them (the ministers) a sufficient raise in salaries,” he pleaded before the Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Mohammad Mazari who proposed stoppage of minister’s salaries as one of the punitive actions against them in case they don’t come to the House on the days when Assembly is scheduled to take up business related to their departments.

The issue of ministers’ salaries came up for discussion in the House when the Deputy Speaker had to keep 12 out of 13 resolutions of public interest pending till the next Private Members’ Day due to absence of the ministers concerned. Out of these, eight resolutions could not be taken up for the third consecutive time yesterday.

It may be recalled here that Punjab Assembly had faced a similar situation during the last session on January 22 when five pending resolutions from the last Private Members Day could not be taken up for the same reason.

“I think, today is, in fact, “A Pending Day”, Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Mohammad Mazari said in reiteration of his previous remarks. The Deputy Speaker also reiterated that he would exercise all his powers to ensure that ministers attend the assembly sittings especially on days when the assembly is to take up business relating to their departments.

The Chair asked the law minister to take up this issue with Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar with directions that government should stop the salaries of ministers who don’t take the Assembly business seriously. The Chair declared that it was the last warning to the ministers to mend their ways.

Raja Basharat endorsed Deputy Speaker’s assertion and assured the House that he would take up the issue at the relevant forum. Basharat also observed that ministers’ presence in the House was vital to run the House. He asserted that the ministers not attending a particular sitting during a session must inform the Speaker in advance.

In an interesting development, the Punjab Assembly sees foreign hand in the drug addiction by the students studying in both public and private educational institutions. Provincial legislature on Tuesday adopted a resolution calling for immediate measures by the government to save “country’s future” from being destroyed by open use of drugs in educational institutes.

“It is a conspiracy to destroy our future generation. Foreign forces are surely involved in it”, read a part of the resolution which also recommended a minimum of 20 years punishment for those involved in drug trafficking. The resolution was moved by Hina Parvez Butt of the PML-N.