LAHORE               -    Defending the decision to hold Punjab Assembly session out of its chambers for the first time in history due to COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary PA Muhammad Khan Bhatti said the decision complied with PEPRA rules and the hotel site was acquired at the lowest price.

Talking to the mediamen after the Punjab Assembly session at a local hotel, he said the Punjab Assembly secretariat had followed all rules and regulations of PEPRA in its decision to convene the assembly session at a local hotel in order to fulfill the World Health Organization (WHO) Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs) of social distancing and ensure safety of the members.

“Not more than 100 members could be seated in the assembly chambers for the session as per the social distancing SOPs of the government and this made us take the decision for look for some other venue,” he responded.

To a question, the Secretary Punjab Assembly said the current venue of the hotel was also selected after the lowest bid, adding that the committee, as constituted by the Speaker Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, had visited two other venues including Aiwan-e-Iqbal Lahore.

“The Aiwan-e-Iqbal demanded a rent of 308,000 per day while a four star hotel initially submitted a quotation of Rs2 million per day and later cut it down to Rs630,000 per day”, he responded, adding that the hotel in question quoted 465,000 per day for the two halls in the beginning but reduced the rate per day to Rs225,000.

Bhatti said Punjab Assembly’s Business Advisory Committee accepted the lowest bidder among the three, adding that the rooms had been booked from June 5 to June 29 at the hotel while the hotel would not charge during weekly holidays.

Muhammad Khan Bhatti dispelled the impression that the session at the local hotel incurred 1 million to 1.2 million rupees per day, adding that the estimates were inflated and misleading as portrayed in the print and electronic media.