LAHORE   -   The PML-N-led Opposition in Punjab Assembly felt obliged to be nice to the Speaker and the Treasury following issuance of production orders of the Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz and former Health Minister Khawaja Salman Rafique.

The PPP and the PML-N had earlier planned to lodge strong protest inside the House over the arrest of Asif Ali Zardari and Hamza Shehbaz. But it came as a surprise for many in the Press Gallery to see the joint Opposition behaving well during first sitting of the current budget session.

Though the PPP lawmakers attended the sitting wearing black bands around their arms and one of them did make a brief speech condemning their leader’s arrest, but overall, they exercised caution to maintain decorum in the House.

Even the fiery speeches made by Hamza Shehbaz and Law Minister Raja Basharat did not evoke any aggressive response from either side. Both traded barbs, with utmost caution though, avoiding unparliamentary jargon, but it all happened peacefully without the usual hullabaloo. If the Treasury benches listened to Hamza’s speech with patience, the Opposition benches also reciprocated the same gesture when the law minister rose from his seat to respond to the Opposition leader.

It was a rare scene witnessed in the Punjab Assembly at a time when the political temperature in the country is very high due to recent arrests of senior politicians.

Or, maybe, it was because of some other reason. The Opposition might have planned to save energies to be utilized during budget speech of the finance minister next day. It is customary with all the legislatures that Opposition would disrupt the budget speech to express its disapproval of the budget.

After the two main speeches, Speaker Parvez Elahi thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief Minister Usman Buzdar for what he called their cooperation they had extended for the legislation regarding production orders of the Assembly members. He sounded very sane and mature when he uttered: “We have our distinct political identities, principles and diverse political opinions [on issues], but all members have shown [political] maturity to enhance the sanctity of this august House.” He believed that Punjab Assembly had made a mark by passing a law on the production orders. He urged the members to set good parliamentary traditions for the coming generations. The Chair also advised the Treasury and the Opposition to have a big heart to bear criticism.

Earlier, in his speech, Hamza Shehbaz attacked the Prime Minister for his announcement to make a commission on loans received in the last ten years and his government’s failure to address the economic problems. He also made indirect references to the National Accountability Bureau, the judiciary and the military establishment for their alleged persecution of the politicians. He asked Imran Khan to also make a commission to probe Malam Jabba scam, alleged corruption in Peshawar Metro and misuse of KP helicopter.

He painted a grim picture of country’s economy with each and every sector showing downward trend under the present regime. He spoke at length on all national issues as if he was delivering a speech in the National Assembly of Pakistan.

Speaker could have asked Hamza Shehbaz to speak on the provincial subjects, but it could have spoiled the atmosphere of goodwill prevailing in the House at the time. Also, it is considered against the parliamentary traditions to interrupt the Opposition leader when he is making a speech.

Hamza also took this opportunity to recall the past incidents of his incarceration during Musharraf’s rule. Pleading not guilty, Hamza reiterated that he would quit politics if corruption of even a penny proved against him.

Raja Basharat was quick to remind Hamza about what the ex-finance minister Ishaq Dar had done with country’s economy. He also narrated the tale of ex-finance minister running away from the country using Prime Minister [ex] Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s plane. Law Minister also told the Opposition Leader that present regime had nothing to do with the court cases against the opposition leaders. He stressed the point that all appointments [in judiciary] including that of NAB chairman were made during the tenure of previous regime and that all institutions were working independent of the government. The minister advised the Opposition leader to stop blaming country’s institutions for the troubles he and other opposition leaders were in at the moment.