LAHORE - It was a relaxing moment for Chief Whip in the Punjab Assembly Rana Muhammad Arshad when the Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal announced adjournment of the 27th session for an indefinite period. 

As the Speaker read out the prorogation order signed by the Punjab Governor, a gleeful smile was writ large on his face. And it was understandable since the poor Rana from Nankana district had been performing the awful duty of herding the members into the Assembly for over three weeks.

Until the last session, his job was not that tough. In the previous sessions, the Opposition would point out quorum only at the time of legislation or whenever the Speaker would not allow its members to speak.  

But the 27th session was a different one. It was conspicuous by the lack of quorum in the House. On the average, it would break for three times in a day. So much so that the last sitting of the session had to be adjourned before the scheduled time even without completion of the day’s agenda, mainly because the House was not in quorum.

Though it was not a happy ending for the Chief Whip, but still he seemed excited at the prospect of enjoying a care-free month before start of the next session. His duties as special assistant to the chief minister are not that tough. Khadim-e-Punjab, Mian Mohammad Shehbaz Sharif would hardly seek any assistance from him. Now he can just come and sit in the chief minister’s secretariat to have coffee and good gossip about the weather and assembly colleagues. 

The issue of quorum kept haunting the Treasury in the outgoing session. Opposition was in an aggressive mood largely because the Speaker had allegedly tried to silence its voice using his discretionary powers. But this added to the difficulties of the Chief Whip.

Rana Arshad did not seem quite himself in this session. The usual smile he always keeps on his face was missing this time. Though he was aptly assisted in his job by the ‘quorum brigade’ from the chief minister’s secretariat, his duty was still very hard. While the chief minister’s aides were positioned at the Assembly entrance with the duty to prevent the exit of lawmakers and to make phone calls to the absentees, the Chief Whip, on the other hand, had to search all their hideouts in the Assembly one by one. Sometimes, he was virtually playing a hide- and-seek with the wayward members of the House who would often trick him by hiding at some other less known place.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif might be happy with the Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal for turning the Opposition against himself.  In the previous sessions, the House would echo with the slogan of ‘Go Nawz Go’ almost every day. But the session which just concluded witnessed a ‘sea change’ in Opposition’s behavior. This time, it was chanting the slogan: “Go Speaker Go”. This continued in the House till the Speaker said sorry for his adverse remarks he uttered for some of the opposition members.

The outgoing session was unique from another aspect too. On the concluding day, the rhythmic quorum bells got mixed up with the call for prayer. As the quorum broke just after one hour of beginning of Monday’s sitting, the Speaker adjourned the House for twenty minutes. The entire building was abuzz with quorum bells when the Moulana at the Assembly started airing the call for prayer.

Many said it was a rare happening at the Assembly.