LAHORE- The much talked about Metro Bus Service (MBS) project of Punjab Government got legal cover from Punjab Assembly on Thursday when it granted approval to the establishment of Metro Bus Authority to regulate the operation of new urban transportation system in major cities of the province.

Headed by Punjab chief minister (chairman) the proposed authority shall own, control, maintain and develop the MBS corridors and ancillary facilities. The bill also provides for penalties for contravening the provisions of the Act, rules and regulations and also for causing damage to the property of the Authority.

It shall consist of eleven members including secretary transport, secretary finance, chairman, P&D, two members each from the Punjab Assembly and the National Assembly of Pakistan and three eminent persons from corporate sector.

Minister for Transport would act as its Vice-chairman and chair meeting of the authority in the absence of chairman. The proposed authority shall have the power to collect fares as determined by the government, grant licenses to bus operators, to collect and use fees, fines and all other revenues generated from the MBS infrastructure. It has also been empowered to acquire, hold and dispose of property.  In return, the authority would be required to ensure safe, efficient and comfortable bus operations on a corridor. It would also be its responsibility to establish and maintain an effective system of janitorial and housekeeping services to keep a corridor and its entire ancillary facilities clean.

Earlier, the Treasury overruled all amendments proposed by the Opposition. Strangely enough, only three members from the joint opposition- PPP’s Ehsanul Haq Naulatia, Dr Samia Amjad and Amna Ulfat of PML-Q-were seen in the House through out the legislation.

During clause by clause reading of the MBS bill, the press gallery witnessed an interesting dialogue between the Speaker Punjab Assembly, Rana Muhammad Iqbal and Law Minister, Rana Sana Ullah when the latter opposed an amendment from the Opposition which suggested a role for the Speaker and not the Government to nominate two legislators as members of the Authority.  “Oh, you are opposing me. But what if the majority decides in my favour”, the Speaker remarked, though in a lighter vein with a smile on his face.

“Mr Speaker, don’t be impressed by the flattering of opposition members. They are trying to mislead you. Please don’t come into their trap”, responded the law minister.  

The House ultimately decided against the Speaker by overruling the Opposition’s suggestion empowering him to nominate two lawmakers to serve as members of the proposed MBS body.

The Assembly also approved amendments in Provincial Motor Vehicle Ordinance, 1965 to exempt certain categories of buses from the route permit to be operated under the Punjab Metro Bus Authority.

Dr Samia Amjad questioned the proposed amendment pleading that how could an Assembly grant such an exemption to a bus which would be operating under a body which is yet to be established. To this, the law minister opined that Assembly had the power to make futuristic legislation. He also said that official vehicles have already been exempted from getting route permits.

Through an amendment in section 179-A of the Punjab Local Government (Amendment) Act, 2012, the government has been allowed to delay LG elections for another six months. Now,  it will notify a date for LG polls to the Election Commission within 240 days starting from Sept2012.

In the statement of objects and reasons, the government has maintained that Punjab Local Government Bill, 2012 has already been introduced and the same is pending with the Standing Committee on Local Government that met only once and is yet to firm up its recommendations. On the other hand, the stipulated period of 180 days is fast drawing to a close. “Since the Local Government Bill may take some time for enactment, the government needs more time for notifying the date”, said the government while justifying this amendment.

Through an amendment in the Public Sector Universities Act, the government has enhanced retirement age for Vice-chancellors of the public sector universities from 60 to 65 years.  

The PA also passed “The Punjab Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues (Amendment) Bill for the second time, overruling Punjab governor’s objections who had returned the bill for its reconsideration, pleading that it was a federal subject.

The PA also approved some amendments in University of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, Lahore Act, 2012.