LAHORE -  If ‘halal rizq’ is what one earns through blood and sweat, then most of the members of the Punjab Assembly will have to think whether what they get as salaries and perks falls in the same category.

And if they feel that they are feeding their families ‘halal rizq’ then the very definition of the word would have to be changed.

It has become almost a routine that legislators don’t give much importance to the assembly sessions and don’t participate as regularly as they should. Quite often the house lacks forum, because of which the speaker is left with no option but to adjourn the session for some other day.

The ruling PML-N has more than two-thirds majority in the 371-member house. Only 93 are required to maintain quorum and continue the proceedings. But even the army of ministers, parliamentary secretaries and other office-bearers prefer to stay away from the house. The ‘workaholic’ chief minister is not taking any notice of the growing trend of truancy. His leniency has sent a wrong message to the MPs and they have started believing that there is nothing wrong in ‘work shirking’.

Many say that if the MPs are justified in drawing salaries without doing any work, then dacoits, robbers, extortionists and thieves are also committing no illegality. Their ‘profession’ should also be recognised as legal and they should not be proceeded against for loot and plunder.

This is the time that some authority – whoever that it – should take a serious notice of the unenviable precedents being set by the legislators and force them to give back to the exchequer the money they pocketed without performing their duties. Such a step will set right many and send a strong message to people in all walks of life.

The assembly is required to meet only 100 days in a year. In other words the MPs have 265 days off in a year.

But unfortunately the legislators don’t spare even this much time for the very job they are elected for. Even if the house is adjourned for lack of quorum that day is also counted as a working day. And if the speaker adjourns the sessions for 10 days without any reason, the house will be deemed to be in session, which may be legally right but morally totally unfair.

Official records show that members of the Punjab Assembly are perhaps involved in cheating while marking their attendance.

For example, on Oct 16 the session came to an end only after about a quarter of an hour because of lack of quorum. The ‘proceedings’ of these few minutes were not worth reporting and some papers did not carry them for the same reason.

But in documents as many as 154 MPs marked their presence, in other words 61 MPs more than the required minimum strength to keep the house going. The question is if that many MPs were there in the house then why there were reports of lack of quorum.

Apparently, most MPs marked their attendance without actually attending the session or they left the house just after completing this formality.

Just by working for a quarter of an hour without transacting any business all legislators got entitled to salaries and allowances.

Records show that on October 17, the situation was no different as far as the attendance was concerned. A total of 155 MPs marked their attendance.

If our legislators and leaders set unenviable examples the ordinary mortals would be justified in emulating them – drawing salaries without actually attending their offices.

The legislators will be present in assemblies in large numbers if the government links distribution of development funds to their attendance and contribution to parliamentary proceedings. Any MP staying away from the assembly should be refused government funds.

Similarly, the assembly secretariat will be doing a great national service by publishing a book on the performance of every legislator – and development funds given to them. This will help their voters assess what their representatives have done for them. This will also enable the voters to decide who should they vote for in the next election.