LAHORE - The 27th session of Punjab Assembly was prorogued indefinitely on Monday on a note of resentment from a minority member against the missing column for Sikh community in the national census forms.

The last day of the session started 100 minutes late of the due time and practically lasted only 60 minutes after which the House could not resume the proceedings as the Treasury failed to gather the required minimum strength of 93 members when the incomplete quorum was pointed out by the PTI’s Saadia Sohail Rana. It was the second time general debate on Food could not take place due to shortage of quorum.

The House, chaired by Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan took up questions on Archeology and Auqaf and Religious Affairs.

On a point of order, Sikh Treasury member Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora raised the issue about the missing column for Sikh Pakistani nationals in the census forms and groused it was done through a conspiracy to dilute their identity with others under the head of scheduled caste. Arora said Sikhs were one of the leading minorities in the country but their separate column was missing among those specified for Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Ahmadies in the census forms.

“It is a bureaucratic conspiracy,” he added and pointed out he has received a number of calls from the members of his community from UK, US, Canada and others parts of the world who have expressed serious concerns over this move.

Arora demanded immediate inclusion of column for Sikhs in the forms so that their number could be counted and their identity as Pakistani Sikhs could be established.

On a privileged motion, the PTI member from PP-72 Faisalabad, Khurram Shehzad blamed the defeated candidate of the PML-N, Khwaja Muhammad Salam, for impersonating himself as MPA to get the development schemes approved through the office of Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner concerned. Calling the PML-N candidate ‘fraud’ and the biggest ‘qabza group of the sub-continent’, Khurram said he holds written proofs that Khwaja showing himself as MPA on his letter head got the development approved.

The Speaker wanted the PTI MPA to show respect to Khwaja who, he said, has been a ‘honouable member’ of this house. But Khurram did not take back his words.

Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, who also belonged to Faisalabad and smilingly heard tale of the opponent member, said he would recommend action if the documentary proofs would establish Khwaja Salam had really forged the letter head to portray himself as MPA. However, the law minister said no offence would be made out if he had used the prefix ex-MPA on his letter head.

During the question hour, Treasury MPA Bao Akhtar Ali said the contract for Shalimar Gardens canteen is all the time awarded to the same persons who are heavily overcharging the visitors without any check from the administration. The questioner found a sort of ‘monkey business’ about the award of the contract.

Parliamentary Secretary Zulqurnain Sahi invited the member for joining the committee which would award the contract next time.

To another question, the parliamentary secretary told the House that all the shrines under Auqaf are not profit earning and needs at those shrines are met from the money received from other shrines. A central Auqaf Fund has been established to monitor spending of the money received from 73 main shrines in Punjab and the Fund acted strictly according to the law, he added.

Dr Farzana complained about lack of washrooms and shade facilities for the ladies at the two main shrines of the town. The secretary promised to look into the same.

After the quorum was found incomplete despite waiting for about 50minutes to let the required number of members to meet, the Chair announced the session to be prorogued. With that the Punjab Assembly has completed 85 days of its mandatory 100 days sitting.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 21-Mar-2017 here.