LAHORE -  The Punjab Assembly yesterday approved two bills with a majority vote but not before five interruptions by Opposition in the form of pointing quorum.

The PA passed The Punjab Urban Immovable Property Tax (Amendment) Bill 2016 (Bill No47) and The Punjab Urban Immovable Property Tax (Amendment) Bill 2016 (Bill No48) with majority, rejecting all cut motions of opposition legislators. The Opposition pointed out quorum five times during the proceedings on Government Business, a rare incident in the history of PA. The treasury, however, managed to maintain quorum on all five occasions, paving way for approval of two bills and completion of debate on cut motions on The Punjab Civil Administration Bill 2017. The bill aimed to revive the system of British rule revolving around commissioners, deputy commissioners, assistant commissioners and additional commissioners.

The fresh legislation authorizes local bodies to impose taxes on properties in suburban or rural areas with urban characteristics or those declared “urban” by the government for property tax collection.

Opposition led by Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed came down hard on the treasury, that the amendment would target the already suffering masses by allowing the local government to tax the poor on own wishes.

To the revival of colonial era system of commissioners, the opposition legislators said that it was aimed at subjugating the masses. Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed said the amendment would revert the country back to British era, nullifying all the past efforts to devolve the power to the democratically elected representatives at grass root level. He said that it seemed that the next step would be to move further back in Mughal era. The House was considering the passage of the bill when the chair adjourned the proceedings till today (Thursday) on completion of time.

Earlier, proceedings started one hour and 30 minutes beyond the scheduled time with Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal in the chair.

On a point of order, Opposition Leader Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed drew the attention of the House toward increase in prices of petroleum twice in one month despite stability in international market. He said that the move of federal government would bring a wave of increase in prices of commodities and as such would add to the woes of the masses. He urged the chair to allow the resolution out of turn to take up issue of public interest. The chair made it clear that it was inappropriate to take up am issue relating to the federal government. The opposition staged a walkout to protest against not allowing debate on the resolution. Later, the Opposition returned to the House on the insistence of committee of ministers to take part in the proceedings.

During Question-Hour on Finance and Irrigation, Minister for Irrigation Amanat Ullah Shadikhel said that Punjab was in favor of Kalabagh Dam. He said that approval of other federating units was essential for taking up the project. He said that the provincial government was working on 56 water storage projects. He said nine small dams meant for storing flood water would be completed in 2018.

To a question of JI’s legislator Dr Waseem Akhtar, Parliamentary Secretary Finance Rana Babar Hussain said that Bank of Punjab has written off loan of Rs1.58 billion during the last eight years. The chair referred the question to the relevant standing committee.