LAHORE - Speaker Punjab Assembly Ch Parvez Elahi and Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Mohammad Mazari have been trying hard in the last six months to ensure minister’s presence in the House especially at the time when they are supposed to respond to the adjournment motions and other assembly business.

Dozens of adjournment motions and resolutions moved in public interest are lying pending for disposal due to continued absence of ministers concerned. Provincial ministers who have previously served under Ch Parvez Elahi are, however, an exception in this regard.

A minister may be present in the House during the Question-Hour but he would absent himself when the House is about to take up business relating to his department. Many a time, the speaker and the deputy speaker have directed the law minister to take up the issue with the Punjab chief minister, but to no avail.

Tuesday was Private Members’ Day in Punjab Assembly as 17 resolutions of public interest were on the agenda of assembly business. But it was business as usual on this day also. Of the 17 resolutions, 12 were pending since the last three Private Members’ Days. The House adopted only one resolution yesterday only because it did not relate to any provincial department. The chair put it to vote and nobody dared oppose it given the religious sensitivities involved. The rest were kept pending till ministers’ availability in the House.   

Since the inception of present assembly, the speaker and the deputy speaker have made it a rule that House will not take up any adjournment motion and resolution of public interest if the minister concerned is not present to give official response on them. Ironically, both sides have shown consistency not to relent in any way.

During the last Private Members’ Day, the deputy speaker had given the ruling that the government should stop salaries of those ministers who were not taking the assembly business seriously. He had directed Law Minister Raja Basharat to take up the matter with the Punjab chief minister.

Highly dejected over the absence of ministers for the third consecutive time, Sardar Dost Mazari issued the same directions yet again. In reiteration of his earlier assurance, the law minister also reassured he would talk to the chief minister to sort out the issue.

But given the legal position, it is naïve of the deputy speaker and the law minister to assume that the chief minister can stop salaries of the provincial ministers. Apparently, both seem to be unaware of the fact that salaries, allowances and privileges of ministers have been guaranteed under an act of the assembly. chief minister has no power under this act to stop their salaries as long as they enjoy their ministerial portfolios.

It could only be possible through an amendment in the said act. Can the government afford to amend the law to act against its ministers? Will the present assembly stand against the ministers to pass an anti-ministers legislation? The answer to these questions is definitely a big NO. It is hoped the deputy speaker stops giving directions to the government which cannot be implemented within the present scheme of things.