LAHORE - Opposition in the Punjab Assembly on Friday mounted a strong protest after the chair did not allow its members to present an out-of-turn resolution against the increase in petroleum prices.

Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan wanted the resolution to be tabled before the house according to the procedure and on its turn, but the Opposition led by Mian Mahmudur Rashid pressed for immediate acceptance of the resolution. On Wednesday, the speaker had allowed the Treasury to present and pass a resolution against the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Punjab out of turn. NAB has opened many cases of alleged corruption in Punjab government projects and taken into custody senior bureaucrat Ahmad Cheema.

Refusal of the Chair to allow the Opposition to present its resolution led the House into a noisy, unruly and boisterous situation. The Opposition went a step ahead and tore apart copies of the agenda and staged a token walkout. The Opposition said the Chair previously allowed the Treasury resolution against NAB in violation of the procedure because Ahad Cheema was a ‘front man’ of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif in the alleged corrupt practices. Many people are being apprehended by NAB on the basis of information provided by Cheema.

Criticizing the haste shown by the Treasury to vote on the resolution against NAB, Rashid said it was regrettable that the Punjab Assembly had been used for political gains against lawful actions of a department. He said the Chair played a partisan role in this respect. The Opposition will not let this foul play go on, he said. He said the Opposition wanted to bring in a resolution against the increase in petroleum prices. He said that petroleum prices had gone up by Rs32 per litre over the last five months. As a result, he said, prices of every item of daily use have been jacked up.

On this, Treasury MPA Rana Muhammad Arshad said the Opposition would digest insult to institutions if done by Imran Khan and his friendship with the Taliban. If the Punjab government does something for the public welfare, he said, the Opposition would start protests.

PTI lawmaker Nabeela Hakim Ali accused the Treasury of using its numerical strength for political mileage in the House. She said it was contrary to parliamentary norms. She said the speaker was favouring the government. If the Chair continues to do so, she said, the Opposition will not let the House carry out the business. The Speaker maintained that he had the authority under the law to regulate the House and would exercise the power according to his will without accepting dictation from any side on use of his powers. He said he would do what the majority would approve.

Provincial Minister Tahir Khalil Sandhu said the resolution against NAB was not against any institution; it demanded that the federal government amend NAB law and improve it.

As both sides stood fast to their point of view on the resolution, the situation in the House became noisy with trading of allegations against each other. Both sides raised so much noise that nothing could be heard. Repeated calls by the Chair to maintain order in the House fell on deaf ears of the members. On this, the Chair found help in adjourning the session till 2pm Monday. Earlier, the House took questions on three departments – Planning and Development, Human Rights and Minorities, and Literacy and Informal Basic Education.

Minority MPA of PTI Shunila Ruth on a supplementary question asked why the minority members in the Opposition have not been given Christmas funds. On it the Minister Tahir Khalil said the government is regularly providing Christmas funds to the minority community every year and also development funds to the members. He said in the next financial year, the funds for the minorities MPAs will also be retained.

Mian Aslam Iqbal of the PTI criticized Sahiwal Coal fired energy project, which he said, had multiplied the environmental degradation. Sahiwal legislators did not take words of “black faces” in good taste and said what Aslam said was not correct and exposed his lack of information.

The minister said the Sahiwal plant haf hugely contributed to bringing down loadshedding throughout the country.

On a point of order, Asif Mahmood wanted the House to unanimously pass a resolution to express solidarity with the people of Syria.