LAHORE - Punjab government’s indecision on appointment of parliamentary secretaries is affecting the smooth disposal of assembly business since inception of the new legislature. 

Under the Assembly Rules of Procedure, a parliamentary secretary is authorised to speak on behalf of the minister in latter’s absence from the house.

The treasury on Tuesday faced embarrassment when the house could not dispose of any of the agenda items mainly because the government was yet to appoint the parliamentary secretaries for provincial departments. All the concerned ministers were absent yesterday and the chair had to keep their assembly business pending since no parliamentary secretary was there to answer questions or respond to the resolutions.

The new assembly has entered its fifth month but the government has not been able to announce the parliamentary secretaries for various departments. There are confirmed reports that differences have cropped up between the two coalition partners over their respective shares in these appointments. Also, some legislators from the PTI are not willing to work as parliamentary secretary and demanding ministerial slots instead.    

In the given situation, both the speaker and the deputy speaker are left with no choice but to keep the assembly business pending for other days if the concerned ministers are not present to respond to the members’ queries. The government is still unmoved on the issue as the pendency of work is increasing manifold with each passing day.

Unmindful of the fact that posts of parliamentary secretaries are yet to be filled, the provincial ministers, on the other hand, have started skipping the assembly sittings, apparently in a bid to avoid the possible grilling by the chair.

They would not come to the house even when they are present in the assembly premises.

During Tuesday’s sitting, Minister for Communication and Works (C&W), Mian Mahmoodur Rashid left the house just before start of the Zero Hour knowing well that some business relating to his department was on the agenda. When Sardar Mohammad Awais moved his motion, Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Mohammad Mazari asked Law Minister Mohammad Basharat Raja to bring him in to respond to the motion. Prosecution Minister Ch Zaheeruddin volunteered to locate Mr Rashid but he returned empty-handed. The C&W minister had either left the assembly or refused to oblige the prosecution minister.

In the meanwhile, Irrigation Minister Sardar Mohsin Leghari told the chair that the issue highlighted in the motion actually pertained to the federal government and the house could pass a resolution on it. The chair made the treasury and the opposition agree on the point that house would pass a unanimous motion some other day calling upon the federal government to allocate funds for necessary repair of Kashmore Road linking the three provinces of Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh.

Also, five pending resolutions from the last Private Members Day could not be taken up yet again due to absence of the concerned ministers on Tuesday. Similarly, the chair also had to keep three out of five fresh resolutions pending due to absence of the ministers concerned. Most of the resolutions pertained to education and health departments. Assembly question hour also met the same fate for the same reasons. 

“I think, today is, in fact, “A Pending Day”, Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Mohammad Mazari remarked, in a lighter vein though.  He kept almost all the assembly business pending for the next Private Members Day.

The deputy speaker, however, assured the house that he would exercise all his powers to ensure that ministers attend the assembly sittings especially on days when the assembly is to take up business relating to their departments.