LAHORE - Quorum will not break in Punjab Assembly on coming Wednesday. It will be on this fateful day that Assembly members from the PML-N would be served a sumptuous lunch to keep the House in quorum.

The day is important because the government wants to get at least two bills passed from the Assembly.

The new legislation is about setting up of authorities in the Education Department on new initiatives. The issue of quorum will, however, persist on rest of the days till prorogation of the session on November 30.  Punjab Assembly is half-way through its last Parliamentary year ending on 31st of May, 2018. In the last four-and half years, it has set new traditions breaking with the old ones. 

Under the new conventions, the Treasury has now absolved itself of the responsibility of keeping quorum in the House except on the day when the House takes up legislation business.

This practice is already in vogue for the last four years and one must not be surprised if all the remaining sittings except a few witness pre-mature adjournment of the House due to lack of quorum.  Chief Whip Rana Arshad keeps telling the journalists and the lawmakers that treasury has the responsibility to maintain quorum only on the day when it is required to pass the bills. For him, it is an undemocratic behaviour on the part of the Opposition to point out lack of quorum in the House. 

Under the old Parliamentary traditions, however, it is responsibility of the majority party to keep the required number of members in the House during all the sittings.

In the legislative history of Punjab Assembly, it never happened before that Speaker would suspend the question hour only because the movers were not present in the House. But this has happened in the present Assembly twice in the last two months. On Friday, the Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal had to adjourn the sitting for 20 minutes to wait for the members to come to seek replies from the Minister concerned. But despite a long wait only one mover turned up yesterday. The remaining questions were disposed of without being taken up by the House.

A more embarrassing situation was observed during the last session when the entire question hour had to be suspended due to absence of the Ministers and the parliamentary secretaries. This happened for the first time in the history of Punjab Assembly. Also, in the last Assembly session, the Speaker astonished the entire House when he adjourned the sitting all of a sudden stating he heard somebody pointing out lack of quorum. But no legislator either from the Opposition or the Treasury side was ready to admit he or she had done so. This also happened for the first time in the Assembly.

Another unusual practice set by the ruling party is about using the officials from CM secretariat for the purpose of maintaining quorum. These officers stand guard at the Assembly entrance to keep the party members inside the Assembly premises. They would also make phone calls to the absentees to call them to the Assembly.

As per the previous tradition, it is the job of the Chief Whip to remain in contact with the Treasury members to ensure their presence in the House.

Moreover, it was also for the first time that Punjab Chief Secretary Capt (Retd) Zahid Saeed and Administrative Secretaries of some of the departments were made to sit in the Assembly during the Assembly sessions.  The idea was to make the top officers available to the members so that they don’t skip the Assembly sittings to get their works done at government offices.

 

 

MUBASHIR HASSAN