LAHORE - Annoyed by the remarks of Education Minister Rana Mashood Ahmad Khan, the Opposition announced to boycott the Punjab Assembly session until the minister takes back his words and extends apology to PTI member Rahila Anwar who was badly offended by what the minister said during the question-hour.
A privilege motion from Treasury member Sheikh Allauddin against a media columnist for writing against the assembly, failed reference owing to the interference of Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan who wanted the House to hold debate at length on the matter instead of prosecuting the columnist through the committee since it would be quite futile.
The House, with Deputy Speaker Sardar Sher Ali Gorchani in the Chair, kicked off proceedings of the 7th session one hour and 40 minutes beyond the scheduled time. The House also found ruling from the Chair on an adjournment motion of Sheikh Allauddin. The mover had sought verdict on the proposition that the Rules of Procedure of the Punjab Assembly provided only to the minister concerned or the parliamentary secretary to respond to the queries in the House and no one else (advisers, special assistants, any members etc) was competent for this exercise under the rules framed in 1997.
The Chair ruled to dispose of the motion in terms of the relevant provision in Rules of 1954. The mover absolutely dissatisfied with the decision, observed that the ruling has overruled. The Chair has changed the history, he observed.
The Opposition members, already irritated by the Chair for not giving them much time from speaking, went to extreme when Education Minister Rana Mashood Ahmad Khan passed remarks which PTI MPA Rahila Anwar deeply felt. As the House was taking up questions, the PTI’s female member sought attention to the plight of schools in her Jhang constituency and grieved that the minister was not taking the issue seriously.
On this, the minister replied he always takes her seriously. The Opposition construed the reply equivocal and raised noise in protest saying the remarks were directed to the female member to insult her. Rahila wanted to speak but she was not allowed and kept on the wait till the questions hour was over. Even then Rahila was not allowed to speak as it was the case with other members on the Opposition side for the reason Chair did not want to spare time of adjournment motions for any other business. This led the Opposition to stage boycott of the proceedings.
The Chair sent three members to bring the Opposition back but only four members including Opposition leader Mehmoodur Rashid returned to express reservations.
Rashid told the House that the Opposition was being pushed to the wall as quite insufficient time is being given to its members. He said the PTI’s female member, who wanted to speak regarding the conduct of the minister , was not given time. He said other members of the Opposition will not join the proceedings until the minister takes back his words and apologises for his conduct.
The Chair solaced the Opposition saying the minister is not present in the House now and would explain his position next day. He said that no discrimination is meted out to the Opposition in respect of the allocation of time.
Talking to media outside the House, Rahila objected to the minister’s conduct and vowed not to rejoin the session until an apology is tendered from him.
Sheikh Allauddin objected to a media column wherein the elected members were accused of appointing their favourites to police, administrative and educational posts. He said the columnist had infringed privilege of the whole House so that matter could be referred to privilege committee. He blamed the columnists for spending whole day at gossips in Gymkhana while writing in the evening. He also sought the same permission to chide the columnists.
On this issue, Mehmoodur Rashid said there must be something in the ruling side that has developed this impression. He further said that such elements have led to such impression for the whole members should be detected. Waris Kahlu, and Muhammad Ahmad Khan also supported point of view of the mover. Ahmad staged a boycott when he failed to get a favourable response from the Chair on his plea for constituting a committee even more powerful than PC.
Rana Sanaullah opposed the reference of the motion to the PC; however subscribed to what others of Treasury said. He said baseless charges have been levelled in the column but putting the matter before the committee will unduly give projection to the columnist which will not serve a good purpose. He suggested that the mover might take time at will to speak on the matter of protecting privilege of the House. As the issue was picking up heat and pressure was building for sending the matter to PC, the Chair pended the motion and skipped to next step.
During the questions hour, Minister Rana Mashood said over the next three years the government has planned to build 27,000 rooms to fill in the missing facilities at schools in addition to catering to the needs of electricity, potable water, toilets and boundary walls. To a question that why not fees limit of Rs500 per month is strictly maintained at the private schools that are now demanding fees in thousands.
The attention of the minister was also drawn to the past year’s financial bill wherein the private schools were sought to provide free-of-cost education to 10 per cent poor students. The minister said that a bill on the fee, categories of private schools and their facilities, academic syllabus in consultation with government, etc. is afoot which will take care of all the relevant matters.
The House ended with start of debate on the pre-budget proposals. The Assembly will meet at 10 am on Thursday (today).