LAHORE - Minister Malik Muhammad Asif remained on the receiving end during Question Hour on Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries at the Assembly floor on Wednesday as not only the Opposition but also Treasury legislators come hard on him for giving unsatisfactory and wrong answers.

Unprepared and confused minister even failed to satisfy Deputy Speaker Sardar Sher Ali Gorchani who took strong exception to his wrong answers and directed him to take action against the officials for misleading the House. The officials in the gallery continued making futile efforts to save the minister from blushes by frequently sending chits to update the information. The Opposition legislators went on to say that it seemed as the minister knew nothing about the department and just responding to queries after reading the chits sent by the bureaucrats concerned.

Following the protest from the Opposition and Treasury legislators, the chair directed the minister to visit Wildlife and Breeding Centre Head Ganda Singhwala and present the enquiry report.

To the queries, the minister said that forests occupy 3.1 per cent of the total area in Punjab. He said that the forests account for around 25 per cent of the total area as per international standards. He said that conversion of one per cent of the total area of Punjab into forests required 0.5 million acre land with 6,000 cusecs of water for irrigation. He said that the department did not have any resources to increase the size of forests.  To another query, the minister said that the department had allotted 1,300 acre forest land in Lodhran to GHQ in 1981. the Treasury legislator said that the land was allotted during military regime and there was need to take that property back which was presently under the use of a politician.  On insistence of many legislators, he pointed figure towards PTI leader Jahangir Khan Tareen. PTI legislator Siddique Khan termed the answer wrong and demanded the minister to unfold name of the right person before the House.

To a question, the minister said that 5,619 acre land in Cholistan was under the possession of GHQ. He said that the department had written several letters for the return of the forest land but without any response.  To a query from Ejaz Ahmed Khan, he claimed that the foreigners required a special permit from the Foreign Ministry for hunting in Pakistan. He claimed that this permit is issued for ten days and during this span of time, the foreigners could hunt only 100 birds. Nevertheless, the Opposition member termed the answer wrong and pleaded that the foreigners used to stay for 20 to 25 days and during this period they hunt at least 100 to 150 birds on daily basis.

The minister claimed that there was ban on cutting trees in Murree and the trees, on completing their required age, are put on auction in a transparent manner. He admitted before the House that the officials are also involved in illegal cutting of trees.

Three members of the Punjab Assembly staged walk-out from the House. Siddique Khan left the proceedings for not getting permission from the chair to talk on a point of order, while Dr Nadia Aziz and Samina Noor left the House over the issue of non-availability of hostel for female members.

However, all the three came back after the chair directed the Opposition and Treasury members to request the angry members for rejoining the proceedings. Opposition Leader, Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed talking on Siddique Khan’s issue, said that the chair always adopted discriminatory attitude with them.

Minority member, Shenela Roth taking the floor claimed that the wall of a church in Anarkali has been demolished on the behest of the ruling party members, as they want to build a shopping plaza at the Church’s land.

The chair directed Shenela to contact with the Minorities Minister for this purpose.

Meanwhile, Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Bill was taken up in the House; however the debate has been put off as the Speaker adjourned the session till 10:00 am Thursday (today).

The Opposition proposed some amendments during the initial debate over the bill but three of them were rejected. The House also disposed off adjournment motions concerning Multan Institute of Cardiology, Nishtar Hospital and Faisalabad Agriculture University.