LAHORE - The Punjab Assembly Monday got in a tricky situation on the question how will chair the proceedings as Speaker Parvez Elahi became an acting governor of the province and the deputy speaker.

The opposition lodged a strong protest at the outset of the proceedings when Mian Shafi Muhammad, named by Parvez, begun presiding over as the chairman. The opposition termed the appointment illegal and in violation of Rule 13 of the Punjab Assembly rules, which reads: “The Panel of Chairmen (four members) could be named by the speaker only after the session has commenced.”

Although the opposition did not accept Mr Shafi as Chairman of the House and termed him stranger in the office, at no point in time they shunned addressing him and seeking remedy from him.

Law Minister Raja Basharat guided the house to legality of the issue, stressing that the speaker’s nomination was correct as the speaker was a good holder of the office in his chamber for naming the penal of chairmen as he was in the house.

Opposition’s Azma Bokhari countered this argument, saying: “The house will have an unsavoury precedent as appointment of chairman outside the house was an illegal act.”

She said the government should have shown seriousness and it should had ensured availability of the deputy speaker if the speaker was unavailable.

The law minister said after the governor had signed the summary of speaker for the session, the latter was competent to name the chair in such peculiar circumstances.

Muhammad Ahmad said it was matter of the validity of the proceedings which could even be challenged in the court of law.

Next the question occurred how the error could be rectified for which various members tabled suggestions in the house. Opposition’s Samiullah Khan proposed for adjourning the session for an hour and finding a way out at advisory committee meeting outside. The law minister and Ch Zaheeruddin both stressed that in case speaker and deputy speaker are not available the penal of chairman of the preceding session holds good. However, their point was defeated again on the touchstone of the rules of the assembly by the Opposition.

The law minister said in such like cases senior most member can also preside over the session. However this point also failed to command approval and the Opposition became firm to deny anything coming from the Chairman at this stage.

Then the law minister referred to Rule 13(B) which prescribed that in that event the House could decide the presiding officer of the assembly through passing a motion. Muhammad Ahmad then said, ok but for that end, secretary assembly needs to first apprise the house that there was no speaker, no deputy speaker and the penal chairmen.

This proposition become intriguing for the treasury as by that the speaker’s nominated penal had to be scrapped. Abdullah Warraich of Treasury said such a situation had also erupted in 1985 assembly and the senior most was picked up to preside over the session. Then came former speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan who said, the secretary will name the penal the chairmen and the House will vote to pick up one of them. The idea clicked as it was found holding proximity with the rules to the satisfaction of all. The Secretary of the Assembly had begun to name the penal of chairmen and had mentioned only two names when the proceedings were halted due to call of Maghrib Azaan and the house was adjourned for 15 minutes for prayers.

After the proceedings resumed, Chairman Mian Shafi straightway begun to administer oath to member-elect  from Lahore Malik Asad Khokhar in the face of hue and cry of the opposition which termed oath to Malik illegal. But he completed the oath and signed the role when the Opposition was protesting. Mian Mahmudur Rahman pinched the opposition saying, the opponents were making noise as Malik had snatched the pet seat of PML-N in Lahore which was vacated by Khwaja Saad Rafiq. The chair wanted to jump to the questions hour but the opposition objected, demanding presentation of the motion to validate presence of the chairman Shafi.

The law minister presented the motion which was carried with majority. Ch Shafi as legal chairman of the day, validated the proceedings of the House held earlier and also oath he administered to Malik Saeed. Next he took up questions hour on Local government and Community Development, Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Department. The Punjab Occupational Safety and Health Bill 2019 was also introduced in the House.