LAHORE - It was a rare happening on the Punjab Assembly floor. The Opposition had left the House complaining that Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal was taking dictation from the Treasury to discharge the assembly business.

The question hour taking place in the absence of the Opposition was itself an unusual event in the Assembly. But it was something exceptional to see the treasury members taking the ownership of questions from the opposition side.

It was virtually a scene of ‘Ayes’ turning ‘Nays’ in the House. Not only did they speak on their behalf, they also grilled the Housing Minister Nadeem Kamran keeping him on his toes throughout the question hour.

Out of 22 questions on the day’s agenda, 12 belonged to the Opposition. All would have been disposed of one by one had the treasury members not taken upon themselves to ask supplementary questions on few of them.

While it is customary in the House that members may take over the questions of their absent colleagues with or without their prior consent, it is usually an affair either within the Opposition or the Treasury. Similarly, nothing stops a member to take over the question of any other member who is absent. It is because when a question appears on the agenda, it becomes property of the entire House. But a treasury member taking over a question submitted by an opposition member is something very unusual.

The very first question on the agenda in Monday’s question hour was from Khadeja Omer of the PML-Q. Since she was not present and the Speaker was about to declare it as ‘disposed of’, the PML-N’s Anis Qureshi stood up to ask a supplementary question on her behalf. It was astonishing though, but the minister had to answer it as no illegality had occurred. It was concerning the missing record of the LDA and the PML-N lawmaker wanted to know what action had been initiated against the responsible persons as the first inquiry report was submitted in 2012. The minister repeated the written answer that a fresh inquiry had been ordered since the previous one got lost in the fire. “Mr Speaker! I am not satisfied with the answer”, said Anis who kept repeating his question, but got the same answer every time.

After a few questions, there came another question from Khadeja Omer. This time, Azma Zahid Bokhari rose from behind the treasury benches and asked the minister what action had the department taken against those found involved in the embezzlement of Rs 2.88 billion recovered after an investigation. The minister said it was a fresh question. As she kept on insisting for an answer, the minister said perhaps the action had not been taken because the public accounts committee had not recommended any. “If the committee recommends some action, it is initiated against the responsible officials”, the minister replied. Though she was not satisfied with the answer, the Speaker just moved on to the next question on the agenda.

The ruling party MPA, Anis Qureshi took over yet another question from the opposition side. Faiza Mailk of the PPP had a question about The Mall Emporium in Johar Town. Anis asked the minister whether or not the Nishat group had paid commercialisation fee to the LDA. At first the minister replied that it was a fresh question and then came up with an entirely different answer upon receiving a chit from the official box.

Also, Amjad Ali Javed and Mian Tariq Mehmood of the PML-N acted like an opposition member when the minister beat around the bush on their supplementary questions.