LAHORE  - A cheek-in-tongue reply by a minister to an apparently insensible question from the speaker made Punjab Assembly break into laughter Friday, while the house heard the most populous province lacked funds for population control.

Starting two-hour behind the schedule, the current year’s first session remained quiet and chilly like the cold weather outside the cozy chamber. The ground floor of house was packed almost to capacity and the members performed peacefully without creating any unpleasant scene or hullabaloo. However, the house burst into laughter during the question hour when the population minister suggested an advocacy role of speaker in population control.

Population Welfare Minister Zakiya Shahnawaz was telling the house about the growing population and scarcity of funds to control it when Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal asked her how he could provide help for the cause.

“You, in this senile age, can contribute to the population control by at least giving advice to your children,” the minister replied. This somewhat embarrassed the speaker but make the house burst into laughter. Replying to another question, the minister said her ministry was devolved to the province following the 18th Amendment thus it was facing a number of challenges – and shortage of funds remained atop.

Previously, she went on: ‘the federal government budgeting for the important sector was Rs1.6 billion enough only to cater to staff salary. She said the required impact of the efforts was still needed.

Replying to another question, the minister said that ulema in various Muslim countries had been playing a vital role to motivate the people and the Punjab govt was also revising the policy to seek help of the ulema as well as educate the masses.

To another question relating to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Haroon Sultan told the house that the government was establishing a women development fund in Faisalabad to impart vocational training to the women and help them in their dowry and other needs. Answering a question, the minister said the government allocation for dowry fund ranged from Rs5,000 to Rs3,5000 and over the last two years, 226 women had benefited.