Joint opposition stages walkout from PA against speaker’s conduct


The joint opposition in the Punjab Assembly staged a walkout from the house against what they called the “biased” attitude of Speaker Rana Muhammd Iqbal Khan and the incident of firing on Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) leader Shaukat Basra on Monday.

Soon after the session started after a one and a half hour delay, Sardar Shahab-ud-Din of the PPP said that the Model Town tragedy had been repeated today in district Bahawalnagar’s Haroonabad area where Information Secretary Shaukat Basra was injured in an incident of firing.

According to media reports, three people including Basra were injured while his personal assistant was killed, when an exchange of fire erupted between supporters of the PPP and Pakistan Muslim League – Zia (PML-Z) at Haroonabad Chowk. A PPP lawmaker from Sardar Shahab-ud-Din claimed that the Punjab police was responsible for the incident and that his party would stage walk-out from the house.

Speaking on a point of order, leader of the opposition Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed said that the PML-N is reviving bitter memories from the regime of dictator Zia-ul-Haq when such incidents of firing on political workers were very common. He also criticised the conduct of the speaker and said that the attitude of the speaker was biased against the opposition.

“The opposition is not given the permission to talk and the speaker takes dictation from ministers to run the proceedings of this house,” Mehmood-ur-Rasheed said while adding that the opposition would continue their boycott of the house if the speaker did not change his conduct.

During the last sitting on Friday, the opposition leader was not given time by the speaker when he wanted to respond Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. It was learnt by Pakistan Today that a parliamentary meeting of opposition parties was held on Monday in the chamber of the opposition leader before the start of the session. The meeting concluded with the decision to stage the walkout.

Although treasury members could be heard chanting slogans against the opposition and PTI chief Imran Khan as the opposition walked out of the house, the speaker sent two ministers, Ch Muhammad Shafique and Sher Ali Khan to placate the opposition and ask them to return.

Later, Rana Sanaullah claimed that the conduct of the speaker couldn’t be discussed in the house and that the chambers of the speaker were the proper platform to discuss such matters. A meeting between the opposition parties and the speaker will be held tomorrow in the latter’s chamber to devise a strategy to run the proceedings of the house in a manner suitable to all.

Sometime after the walkout and after the session moved on, a number of lawmakers stood up to solidarity with one of their colleagues when MPA Dr Farzana Nazir demanded a pay raise for the lawmakers.

“The performance of the Punjab Assembly is better than other assemblies but its members receive less salary than those of other provincial assemblies,” she said. She was of the view that members of the Punjab Assembly should be paid as much as those of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, which recently increased the salary of its lawmakers to Rs 150,000. “It is our right to be paid the same salary,” Nazir claimed.

Speaking on the issue, Rana Sanaullah said that in the past, the salaries of MPAs from Punjab had been lesser than those of other assemblies’ members. “The last time Punjab’s MPAs demanded a pay increase, it was granted and made equal to the salaries received by the MPAs of other provinces,” he said.

He further added that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif believed in austerity measures, as was evidenced by the fact that every cabinet member paid bills during foreign trips from their own pocket. “The salaries will be equalised to the salaries of KP lawmakers after receiving confirmation that KPK lawmakers have been given a pay raise,” the law minister said.

The Punjab Local Government (amendment) bill 2017 was also introduced during the session and the speaker referred the bill to the concerned committee, seeking a report in two months time.

A resolution demanding the implementation of United Nations’ resolutions to resolve the Kashmir issue was passed unanimously in the house.

The session resumes Tuesday morning.