LAHORE  -   The recently concluded session of the Punjab Assembly lasted for 10 days. In the absence of Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi, Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Khosa conducted the proceedings on most of the days. Lack of interest on the part of both sides of the political divide was evident from the fact that neither the leader of the house nor that of the opposition bothered to come to the House during the session. On three occasions, Deputy Speaker pended questions due to absence of relevant ministers during question hour.

The agenda also reflect seriousness of the treasury. During the first week, time for government business was consumed on general discussions on food and agriculture and on the last day on health. The same trend continued in the second week with the exception of one day when six bills were tabled only to be referred to special committee for giving report within two months.

The highlights of the session are passage of resolutions of public interest on private members days, five on Tuesday during the last week and another three on last Tuesday.

The house passed the resolution demanding concrete measures for saving people from hazards of smog, job opportunities for beggars roaming in streets, begging at traffic signals and crossings across the province, praising the speaker for holding Mehfil-e-Milad in PA Secretariat for the first time in 90 years history, measures for providing facilities of toilets especially in rural areas and the one praising the government for allocating Rs21 billion for provision of potable water.

On last Tuesday, three resolutions were passed including the one demanding improving quality of cameras installed by PSCA, second condemning attack on Chinese Consulate in Karachi and the third one demanding observing 2019 as Human Rights Year.

The house witnessed protest from the opposition, interestingly not against the treasury but against the deputy speaker over pending questions with the suggestion of bringing fresh ones for detailed reply. Even the law minister and the treasury legislators failed to convince the chair that satisfactory reply was right of every legislator.

General discussion on food and agriculture and health was merely an opportunity for legislators from both sides of the political divide to level allegations and counter allegations.

Significant development was constitution of a committee headed by Law Minister Raja Basharat for preparing draft law to enable Speaker to give orders for production of legislators facing cases in courts of law. Following heated debate on the issue raised on the arrest of Kh Salman Rafiq, Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi advised the government to do legislation on production orders. On the following day, Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari constituted the committee having representation from both sides of the political divide.

On the same day, PML-N’s Hina Pervaiz Butt presented an out of turn resolution that demanded observing December 16, the day when terrorists hit Army Public School Peshawar four years back, as National Day against terrorism and extremism. The House unanimously passed the resolution.

Treasury legislator Uzma Kardar moved a resolution congratulating the federal government for successful diplomacy that paved way for exclusion of Pakistan from the list of countries persecuting the religious minorities. The House passed the resolution with majority vote after opposition from PML-N’s Azma Bokhari and others.

The Opposition also reacted strongly against FIA’s action of stopping Hamza Shehbaz from boarding a flight of Qatar Airways and putting his name on black list. Waris Kalu said the FIA’s action was blatant violation of Lahore High Court’s order. He said that Justice Baqar Najfi had made it clear that no action should be taken without prior permission of the court. PPP’s Hassan Murtaza and PML-N’s Khalil Tahir Sandhu condemned the incident, saying it could not be justified and defended at any forum.

Law Minister Raja Basharat informed the House that former Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif had borne expenses of his all 40 foreign trips during the last five years from own pocket. However, the expenses incurred on officers accompanying the ex-CM were paid from public exchequer.

The Opposition staged a walkout from the House to protest against rejection of resolution moved by Manazir Hussain Ranjha.

The Opposition, however, returned to the House on persuasion of ministers Ch Zaheer-ud-Din and Mian Aslam Iqbal. Minister for Agriculture Noman Langrial said that the resolution was contrary to the facts. He said that the federal government has not withdrawn subsidy given to tubewells.