LAHORE - It is an unusual happening in the Assembly if it sticks to the actual agenda excluding the usual hullabaloo now becoming a norm in all legislatures.

This happened on Tuesday partly due to it being a Private Members’ day and partly because the Law Minister Rana Sanaullah was absent from the House. But there was another reason too. A good number of women legislators from the treasury side were also not present in the House, perhaps, for the reason that there is no official business done on this day. Their presence is considered vital at the time of legislation to maintain quorum in the House.

Punjab’s law minister, known mostly for his offensive statements against political opponents, often provides some cause of agitation to the jittery PTI members always on the lookout for juicy stuff to grill the government. Also, the women legislators on the treasury side take offense even at the little gripe from the opposition enough to turn the House into a fish market. And whenever there is full-fledged battle between the two sides, they provide the necessary backup through sloganeering. It is also true of the ladies on other side of the aisle.

Not that the men don’t pick up fight on the Assembly floor, the women legislators always take the lead. It is a fact no body watching the assembly proceedings would deny. So, all the factors responsible for a disorderly House were missing on Tuesday.

Though 140 members from the ruling PML-N had marked their attendance, not even half of them actually attended the sitting. Most of them sat in the conference room having gossip about politics and friends. In a House of 371, the combined strength of legislators, including both the treasury and the opposition, did not exceed the figure of 54 at any point in time.

The assembly lacked quorum throughout the proceedings but nobody bothered pointing it out. The House is considered to be in quorum when at least 93 members are present out of total 371. It is a strange fact but it is true that Assembly can also do legislation even when the quorum is not complete provided it is not pointed out by any of the members present. 

In the question hour, PTI’s Mian Aslam Iqbal questioned the professional qualification and experience of Punjab Food Authority’s Director Operations, Ms Ayesha Mumtaz, an iron lady who has earned the ire of owners of most of the food eateries in the City for applying strict standards of food quality and cleanliness. Many believe the PTI lawmaker was holding a personal grudge against her for conducting raids on his bakeries. Though he was told by the parliamentary secretary Asadullah Arian that she had the support of technical staff and labs to check the quality of food, he kept insisting how a person with simple Bachelor’s degree could perform such a technical job.

PPP’s Faiza Malik was perturbed over Punjab Zakat & Usher Department’s policy of providing funds to hospitals without following a specific criterion. She was provided a list of 45 hospitals both in the public and private sector receiving annual grants from the Zakat fund. Shaukat Khanam Memorial Cancer Hospital of PTI chief Imran Khan is one of them receiving an annual grant of Rs 10.01 million.

The Parliamentary Secretary Raja Awais told the House that Provincial Zakat Council had the powers to approve Zakat funds for different hospitals keeping in view the nature of patients and health facilities provided to the patients there. Faiza was of the view that hospitals run by trusts like the Ghurki Trust Teaching Hospital should not be entitled to receive official grants. Parliamentary leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, Dr Wasim Akhtar staged a token walkout to register protest over the alleged disparity in the distribution of Zakat funds among the health facilities in Punjab. He protested that not a single hospital from his home town Bahawalnagar had been included in the list of hospitals getting official grants from the Zakat fund. “This is why I am spearheading a campaign for grant of provincial status to Bahawalpur division,” he said.