LAHORE    -   It was after a long time that former dictator Pervez Musharraf’s name was heard in Punjab Assembly in the middle of routine proceedings. A person who ruled over this country for almost a decade is not in the news for quite some time.

In his heydays, General Musharraf had been a subject of debate among his supporters and opponents on the Assembly floor. At that time, there was also talk of electing him president in uniform again and again for an indefinite period of time. The records of provincial assembly which covered the period from 2002 to 2007 are full of Assembly debates, for and against, involving the former president.

It was completely out of the blue when Rana Mashhood of the PML-N told the House that General Musharraf has been recently spotted in London’s Hyde Park with regrets seen in his eyes. “Mr Speaker, General Musharraf, [once the most powerful ruler of his time] recently had an encounter with Salman Shehbaz (Shehbaz Sharif’s son) in London’s Hyde Park. He (Musharraf) was in wheelchair at the time. The General was apologetic about his past conduct [with the Sharif family]”, the PML-N legislator claimed and related this event with the present rulers who according to him were treading on the same path. He reminded the treasury benches that nothing was eternal in this world. “Today you are in power; tomorrow may not see you in power”, he maintained. He also warned that it was now their turn to see the jail for the corruption they had done in the last one year.

Provincial Minister for Prosecution Ch Zaheeruddin Ahmad shouted taunt at the PML-N lawmaker saying that Sharifs should apologise to the Model Town victims before one finds them walking at the same place in the wheelchair.

Mashhood had taken the floor on a point of order to express his dismay over government’s inaction over production orders of Hamza Shehbaz Sharif. He told the chair that no headway had been made on the issue despite assurances from the law minister. He pleaded that it was not an issue involving an individual as Hamza Shehbaz’s case was different from other MPAs. He contended that Hamza Shehbaz’s presence [in the House] was required in his capacity as Leader of the Opposition. “This house is not in order since the person who is supposed to lead the entire opposition is not present”, Mashhood argued before he led a walkout from the House to record protest on the issue. Speaker Parvez Elahi, however, sought time to sort out the matter.

Prior to Rana Mashhood’s speech, it was interesting to see that Speaker deferred his departure for his chamber for some time when the PML-N legislator sought his permission to speak on the subject of production orders. Consequently, one of the members on the panel of Chairman, Mian Mohammad Shafi who was to take the Speaker’s chair stood waiting in the rear for almost ten minutes. It was something unusual to watch as the Speaker would never wait for any member to speak once he decides to leave his seat for the Deputy Speaker or the Chairman. Also, the reporters sitting in the press gallery watched a rare happening inside the House. As against the common practice of ministers trying to avoid any criticism and discussion about their departments, Irrigation Minister Mohsin Khan Leghari offered himself for member’s scrutiny about the performance of his department. Responding to an adjournment motion regarding deficiency of irrigation water in some of the canals, the minister admitted on the Assembly floor that canals lacked the capacity to maintain enough flow of water due to lack of repair. Seeking more funds for maintenance of canal system, Irrigation Minister requested the Speaker to specify a day for open debate to seek suggestions from the lawmakers on how to improve the irrigation system. Mr Leghari asserted that an efficient irrigation system was key to the prosperity of millions of farmers in the province. Law Minister Raja Basharat also supported his suggestion and the Chair agreed to place the desired debate on Assembly’s agenda in the coming days.

Reporters also noticed yet another odd thing happening on the Assembly floor yesterday. It was something some might view as ‘disgrace’ to the office of the Chief Minister. Assembly cameras caught Law Minister Raja Basharat trying to make ‘best use’ of Chief Minister’s vacant seat in the House. The worthy minister was recklessly throwing office files, one after the other, at the Chief Minister’s bench as he disposed of official business. One could see a heap of files from a distance covering the seat of power.