LAHORE - Speaker Parvez Elahi finally succeeded in knocking some sense into the Treasury. But this would not have happened if the Opposition had not talked sense in stark deviation from its past practices.

Barring some occasional skirmishes between the two sides, Punjab Assembly on Monday witnessed a healthy debate during the legislation process. The element of ‘opposition for the sake of opposition’ was clearly missing from the speeches delivered by the opposition lawmakers.

Undoubtedly, the PML-N’s legal wizards, Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan, Waris Kallu and Azma Zahid Bukhari raised some valid points regarding practicality of the government’s legislation on the public services and the rights of domestic workers.

In a rarely seen gesture, the Speaker endorsed the Opposition’s point of view on the domestic workers’ bill and persuaded the law minister Raja Basharat to keep the bill pending to seek more input from the House and the general public.

“Let the sense of the House and the commonsense prevail in this matter”, the Chair declared while siding with the Opposition.Ch Parvez Elahi seemed to be in a good mood throughout the proceedings yesterday. Even some ‘nasty’ remarks from Azma Zahid would not provoke his sensitivities. 

Monday’s Assembly proceedings also revealed a special relationship between the Assembly Speaker and the PML-N’s legislator Mohammad Waris Shad alias Kallu who also happens to be a practicing lawyer. One could see a broad smile on Parvez Elahi’s face every time Mr Kallu presented his arguments on the two bills in his usual punchy style. Coming from Khushab district of Punjab, Kallu has returned to the Assembly for the fourth consecutive time.

At one point in time when Kallu was presenting his arguments on an amendment motion on domestic workers’ bill, Ch Parvez Elahi put his words in Kallu’s mouth to enable the latter to further elaborate his point. “You mean this bill is sure to cause infighting in every house and street if approved in present form?”, remarked the Chair. “Yes, Mr Speaker, I think so”, Kallu took ownership of Speaker’s words though he (Kallu) had not exactly stated in this way. Likewise, the Speaker also endorsed Azma Bukhari’s point on different implications of the draft law for the rural and urban areas.

Also, it was quite strange to see Parvez Elahi ignoring the counter arguments from the Law Minister Mohammad Basharat Raja who also happens to be his long time confidant standing with him through thick and thin. “Sir, the Opposition members have not read the bill carefully. It has provisions which clearly address their reservations”, the minister kept pleading, but strangely enough, the Chair won’t give any weightage to his arguments.

“Raja sahib, please don’t spoil your good initiative in haste. Haste makes waste”, the chair advised the law minister at least twice during the course of arguments. He also reminded him of Punjab Assembly’s landmark legislation on Rescue 1122 done during his tenure as Punjab Chief Minister. “I had then consulted all the stakeholders and sought advice from different people to make it comprehensive”, he recalled.          

Speaker’s unusual goodwill for the Opposition took everybody in the House and the Press Gallery by surprise. It was so because the Chair had never been so kind on the opposition benches before.

In an obvious gesture of reconciliation, Parvez Elahi also backed a proposal from Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz Sharif regarding the domestic workers’ bill. “Mr Speaker, it will give rise to unemployment as the people would not hire servants for fear of Inspectors. It is better that the bill be referred to a special committee to remove all the lacunas”, said Hamza Shehbaz while taking part in the Assembly debate. “I think, the points raised by the Opposition Leader and other members of the opposition should be taken into account”, Parvez asked the law minister who accepted his directions, reluctantly though. The Chair announced that a consensus bill would now be taken up by the House next Monday.

It is a common knowledge that hostilities between Parvez Elahi and Hamza Shehbaz touched new heights when the former got elected as Assembly Speaker in August last year. Hamza had also stopped speaking in the house when Parvez Elahi was in the Chair. He would not even attend the meetings of business advisory council to avoid any contact with the Speaker. Consequently, all meetings of the advisory committee were chaired by Raja Basharat and the PML-N would send only its representative. During the previous sessions, the two had been harsh critics of each other in their media talks outside the Assembly. 

In the prevailing spirit of reconciliation, Hamza also reciprocated the kind gesture from the Speaker. He was all praise for Mr Elahi for his role in passage of an amendment motion enabling the Speaker to issue production orders of an MPA. In a nutshell, the Speaker was darling of the Opposition on Monday. But his appeasement policy towards the Opposition raised eye brows as many smelled something fishy in the whole episode.