LAHORE - The recently concluded session of the Punjab Assembly lasted for 15 working days, excluding holidays of Saturdays and Sundays. The sixth session of the current parliamentary year that continued from January 7 to January 25 witnessed ups and downs.

Two sides of the political divide were on one page on the issue of legislation on production order of legislators detained by law enforcement agencies and hefty fee at private schools. After the House empowered the Speaker to issue production order of detained legislators, Khawaja Salman Rafiq became the first beneficiary of the legislation. Though both sides had similar view one punishment of culprits of Sahiwal massacre, they had differences over mode of investigation. Rejecting JIT preliminary investigation report shared with the legislators during in-camera briefing in the House, the opposition demanded constitution of a judicial commission for identifying the actual culprits and awarding them exemplary punishment. The opposition also criticized the provincial ministers for accepting claims of Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) that target of operation was a terrorist of notorious banned outfit Daesh (ISIS) in stark contradiction to the stance of federal government and foreign office. On two different days, the session was adjourned without taking up items on agenda. In one case, the session was adjourned due to the death of PTI legislator from Multan Mazhar Abbas Raan.

The other incident was really disturbing as most of the agenda was pended due to absence of relevant ministers. Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari expressed anger over the irresponsible attitude of ministers. Law Minister Raja Basharat supported the idea of the chair regarding strict action for ensuring presence of relevant ministers in the House during question hour. The session also witnessed rare incident of pointing quorum on a private members day.

On January 8, opposition legislator Mian Tahir pointed quorum, an unusual practice on private members day. The treasury, however, managed to complete the quorum to pave way for passage of two resolutions of public interest.

The House passed the resolution moved by treasury legislator Sajid Ahmed Khan regarding condemnation of atrocities of Indian armed forces in the held valley. The resolution of Safdar Shakir regarding devising policy of wheat procurement in a way to facilitate growers in getting jute bags was also passed.

On January 10, legislators from both sides of the political divide become one voice on the issue of private schools charging heavy tuition fee from parents.

Opposition legislator Azma Zahid Bokhari said that most of the schools were charging fee as usual in violation of the apex court orders. She said that some educational institutions have decreased fee but at the same time have stooped many facilities including swimming. She said that these schools were also decreasing salaries of teachers. Treasury legislator Shawana Bashir said that the schools have increased the number of students in a class after decreasing fee. Now, she said, strength of students in these private schools was almost the same as in the government institutions.

The other legislators from across the political divide expressed similar viewpoint.

Agreeing to the viewpoint of legislators, Acting Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari directed the minister to take measures for early resolution of the issue.

On January 11, PPP legislators come out all guns blazing against the government for putting names of top leadership including Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Faryal Talpur and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on exit control list. The treasury, however, countered the opposition that the matter was relating to the federal government.

On January 14, The PA unanimously approved amendment to its rules of procedure, empowering the Speaker to issue order of production of a legislator in custody for a session.

Opposition leader Hamza Shehbaz was all praise for the Speaker for taking the initiative of making necessary amendments in the assembly rules.

The treasury also managed to carryout maiden legislation as the House passed the Punjab Right to Public Services Bill 2018 with a majority vote, rejecting all cut motions moved by the opposition.

On January 15, PML-N’s Khawaja Salman Rafiq became the first legislator to take part in proceedings of the Punjab Assembly on the production order issued by the Speaker.

Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi issued orders for production of Khawaja Salman Rafiq after gazette notification of amendments and he was brought to the House when the proceedings were about to conclude amid thumping of desks and slogans from his colleagues.

During Question Hour, Ch Parvez Elahi expressed annoyance over casual attitude of Food Minister Samiullah Ch. The minister failed to give satisfactory replies on the government policy to check illegal activities of sugar millers. He asked the minister if government had any policy in this regard.

Out of eight resolutions on agenda, five were pended and two withdrawn by the movers. One resolution on agenda was passed. The House also adopted another resolution out of turn.

The House passed the resolution moved by PTI’s Momina Hameed that demanded the NA to amend rules relating to the election commission in such a way to declare seat of MPA vacant if he/she failed to take oath even after three months after victory.

The House also passed the resolution of PTI’s Seemabia Tahir that paid tributes to the armed forces for shooting down Indian drone in Bagh sector.

On January 16, the session was adjourned without taking up any item on agenda due to death of treasury legislator Mazhar Abbas Raan.

On January 17, Minister for Health Dr Yasmin Rashid admitted that more than 4,000 faculty posts in basic sciences at medical education institutions were lying vacant.

The House unanimously adopted two resolutions out of turn, the one condoling the death of treasury legislator Mazhar Abbas Raan and the second one expressing concerns over the plight of journalists due to recent slump in media industry.

On January 18, Minister for Irrigation Mohsan Leghari contradicted the claims of opposition legislator Sh Allauddin, saying underground water level in Lahore has dropped to 135 feet and not 290 feet.

On January 21, legislators from both sides of the political divide condemned gruesome incident of killing of parents in the presence of minors in broad day light in Sahiwal and demanded exemplary punishment to responsible men in uniform to avoid such episode in future.

The chair allowed debate on Sahiwal incident after suspending proceedings on agenda, though Law Minister Raja Basharat suggested waiting for report of JIT.

As the opposition legislators lambasted the government for such a gruesome incident, those from the treasury were holding the previous regime responsible for Model Town massacre and damaging the forces by recruiting criminals.

On January 22, The PA witnessed a rare scene of pending most of the agenda items on private members day.

Interestingly, all four questions relating to three departments-Industries, Commerce and Investment, Labour and Human Resources and Environment Protection-were taken up during the Question Hour but only to be pended due to absence of relevant ministers and movers.

Out of 10 resolutions of public interest, eight were pended due to absence of relevant ministers or movers, one was withdrawn by the mover Neelam Hayyat Malik and the remaining was rejected by the House with a majority vote.

Expressing anger over lack of interest on the part of ministers, Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari said that all options could be used to ensure presence of responsible persons in the House. Law minister supported the viewpoint of the chair.

Raja Basharat also supported measures for ensuring presence of ministers in the House.

On January 23, the Opposition rejected the JIT report and demanded constitution of a Judicial Commission for probing Sahiwal incident.

The House witnessed chaos as the Opposition legislators tore apart copies of agenda and besieged the Speaker podium while chanting slogans against the government.

After taking charge from the Deputy Speaker, Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi managed to calm the Opposition to pave way for passage of three bills-the Punjab Domestic Workers Bill 2018, the Namal Institute Mianwali Bill 2019 and the Punjab Occupational Safety and Health Bill 2019. Fourth bill on the agenda, the Punjab Prevention of Conflict of Interest Bill 2018 was however pended on the demand of the Opposition.

On January 24, Additional Chief Secretary Home Fazeel Asghar briefed the legislators about preliminary findings of JIT probing Sahiwal shootout during two hours long in-camera session.

On January 25, Opposition legislators criticised ministers for accepting presence of Daesh (ISIS) in the province in stark contradiction to the claims of the federal government. The opposition legislators come hard on the government for mishandling the Sahiwal incident and accepting CTD officials move of portraying innocent family as ISIS terrorists.

Law Minister Raja Basharat formally announced increasing standing committee from existing 36 to 40. Share of treasury and the opposition will be 21 and 19 respectively. PML-N’s Samiullah Khan demanded action against the agency that provided wrong information of presence of ISIS terrorists in the car that led to killing of innocent people.

Terming last day in camera briefing to the House a movie of James Bond, PPP’s parliamentary leader Hasan Murtaza said information was flying to the CTD officials who chased and opened fire on the car like heroes.

PML-N’s Rahila Naeem accused the provincial government of damaging national interests by admitting presence of Daesh. She said that federal government has rejected the claims of CTD and ministers.

Treasury legislator Samsam Bukhari said the Punjab province had already turned into a police state. He demanded changing the rotten system of rule of gun and giving justice to ill fated kids without any delay.