LAHORE – The Punjab Assembly on Wednesday carried three bills to amend Local Government & Rural Development Act, Bank of Punjab Act and Environmental Protection Act. It also tabled four new bills for approval of the House.

The House transacted legislation on the LG&RD Act to provide for the Government to notify change in the boundaries (constituencies and wards) of a union council, tehsil or a town for the next Local Government polls as per the requirement emanated from the creation of new tehsils.

The second bill amended the BoP Act to the effect of allowing the Punjab Government to hold 80 per cent shares in the bank. The third bill was passed in light of the 18th Amendment to subject environment, control of pollution, and the sustainable development to the Punjab Government from the Federal Government which previously governed the same through Pakistan Environmental Protection Act.

The bills were presented by Law Minister Rana Sanaullah before the House with Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal in the chair on the Government Business Day. The thin opposition represented by Ehsanul Haq Naulathia opposed the two bills while he gave consent to the bill on BoP. In the first instance, Naulathia wanted the BoP bill to be sent to the Select Committee for further review as well as to seek public and expert opinion on the same since the amendment involved billions of rupees of the public money and haste needed to be avoided on its enactment. He was of the view that from 51 per cent to 80 per cent shareholding of the Punjab Government was being done to grant favour to some chum of the Punjab Government who, he presumed, had collected huge amount of BoP shares in the market and wanted to sell them back to the bank on a high price.

The Law Minister  answered that 80pc sharing of the Government in the Bank was not mandatory but it fell between 51pc  and 80pc. Of the four other bills, the first related to Zakat and Usher in the Punjab. On the declaration clause the bill required a Muslim to make swear in the presence of two witnesses before a Magistrate, or an oath commission or a notary public or any other authorised to administer oath, that by faith he was not oblige to pay zakat or usher.

In the Zakat chapter it said, among others, that if an asset was owned or possessed by a person on the valuation date but is owned or possessed by some other person on the deduction date, the Zakat on such asset shall be charged from latter on behalf of the former. The other three bills related to the establishment of Government College, Women University, Sialkot, Government Sadiq College Women University, Bahawalpur, and Government College Women University, Faisalabad. All the said four bills were referred to the respective Standing Committees for consideration.