LAHORE - It looked business as usual at the Punjab Assembly floor on Tuesday as the first budget session of the new Punjab Assembly started with exchange of barbs and the usual scuffles witnessed here as a matter of routine.

What happened inside the Assembly yesterday was in fact a reproduction of what the PTI lawmakers had been doing in the last five years when they sat on the opposition benches.

It seemed the lawmakers in the new Punjab Assembly had just swapped the sides while keeping their respective roles with them.

There was nothing unusual in the usual brawl, high-pitched sloganeering, exchange of barbs, the practice of tearing apart copies of the budget speech witnessed in the House during the budget session.

In the scuffle which ensued following refusal of a point of order by the Chair, some of the members showed their capability of swatting their rival legislators with lethal accuracy. Had it not been some sane lawmakers present in the House for a patch-up, the skirmishing might have gone beyond anybody’s control.

Assembly staff also came under ‘fire’ in a House which did not see order throughout the proceedings.

Assembly Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi later identified six best ‘wrestlers’ to be banished from the House for the current budget session. They included Mohammad Ashraf Rasool, Malik Mohammad Waheed, Mohammad Yasin Aamir, Mohammad Mirza Javid, Ms Zebunisa and Tariq Masih Gull, all belonging to the Opposition. They have been charged with ransacking, causing damage to public property and using indecent language against the government and the Assembly Speaker. But the Speaker conveniently forgot to incriminate PTI’s Shair Akbar Khan who dashed to opposition benches only to get hold of Mohammad Taufeeq Butt of the PML-N in the exchange of blows between the two sides.

Tuesday’s rowdy scene in the Punjab legislature also came as a big blow to government’s austerity drive. Now, some amount will have to be allocated for fixing of the defective microphones, dysfunctional recording machines and necessary repair of Assembly tables which were turned upside down by the ‘hooligans’.

The Opposition and the Treasury had come to the Assembly with different sets of agenda, as per usual. The issue of PML-N President Mian Shehbaz Sharif’s arrest by the NAB was high on Opposition’s agenda. The government, on the other hand, had called the session for presentation of the provincial budget for remaining eight months of the current fiscal year.

As the Opposition tried to push its own business, the Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi pleaded to get down to the official business. The trouble started when the Speaker disallowed a point of order sought by PML-N’s Muhammad Ahmad Khan who wanted to agitate the issue of party leader Mian Shehbaz Sharif’s detention by the anti-graft body.

Theoretically speaking, the Speaker was right in his assertion that a point of order cannot be allowed on the day meant for presentation of the budget.

Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht read out his entire budget speech unmindful of what was happing on the Assembly floor just in front of him. It was his first budget speech in the new Assembly.

Apparently, the finance minister’s budget proposals were in line with the ruling party’s welfare agenda, with nominal increase in allocations for health and education though. Like all finance ministers, he also painted a rosy picture of the budget allocations that would herald the advent of a new Punjab in the days to come.



Business as usual in new Punjab