LAHORE - Punjab Assembly which completed its third Parliamentary year on Thursday achieved a landmark in its legislative history in February this

year by enacting Protection of Women against Violence Bill raising much hue and cry in the religious circles.

It passed 46 bills during the period, but Women Protection Bill remained the most important piece of legislation for its provisions regarding protection of women against all sorts of violence and punishment for the offenders.

According to one of its clauses, aggrieved women cannot be forced out of her house; rather, she has been given the authority to force her husband out of the house for two days. This particular clause was subject of criticism by many especially the religious parties.  Currently, this law is under scrutiny of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) which is in the process of drafting a ‘model’ law on women’s protection. It will be sent to all Provincial Assemblies to make changes in their existing laws accordingly.

The law proposed by the CII allows a husband to ‘lightly’ beat his wife, if needed. It also prohibits mixing of the genders in schools, hospitals and offices.

 In the first six months of third Parliamentary year, the Assembly passed only seven Bills in its 33 sittings.

The Bills on establishment of universities in Sahiwal and Jhang and upgrading the status of Fatima Jinnah Medical College into a university deserve mention here.

Nonetheless, in the last six months of the third Parliamentary year, the Assembly passed 39 Bills, though most of them were mere amendments in the existing laws. In the first and second Parliamentary years, it had passed 31 and 37 bills respectively.

The Assembly remained in session for 101 days though the actual sittings in the third Parliamentary years come to 75. The two weekly holidays are also counted towards the 100 mandatory days during which the Assembly members and staff receive special allowances.

Much like the first two Parliamentary years, not a single private bill sailed through the Assembly in the third year. 

The Assembly Secretariat received 9 notices of private Bills out of which only two were admitted and one was referred to the concerned Committee of the House. 

The House admitted 29 privileges motions out of which 28 were referred to the Privilege Committee for adjudication. Privilege motions mostly comprise complaints against  govt functionaries.

Out of 201 resolutions of public interest, the House passed 56 during this period. Out of 124 admitted calling attention notices, only 36 were answered. Members draw govt’s attention to important happenings through such notices.  In the zero hour introduced for the first time, the Assembly received 61 notices, out of which 34 were admitted but only 11 were actually answered by the govt.

Punjab Agriculture, Food and Drug Authority Bill is also an important legislation in the preceding year.

The govt plans to establish an authority for forensic examination and testing of fertiliser, pesticide, food and drugs. It will also seek an expert opinion from experts in respect of their ingredients and quality. 

To improve law and order situation in the province, the Assembly also enacted to constitute Vigilance Committee at District and Union Council levels to ensure better and effective watch and ward system.  Forest Act, 1927 was amended to make provisions for the use of reserved or protected forest land for national projects of strategic importance. For timely recognition and assistance of civilian victims of acts of terrorism, the Assembly passed a bill to establish an effective mechanism to track, investigate and analyse harm to civilians in acts of terrorism.

The Assembly also deserves credit for making legislation to provide for the prohibition of child labour and regulation of labour at the brick kilns in the Punjab.

Another significant legislation during the third Parliamentary year was about protecting the rights of sugar cane growers.

Through amendment in Punjab Sugar Factories Control Act, 1950, the govt intends to ensure timely payment of cane price to the cane growers.

An amendment in drugs law was made during this period for eradication of the menace of spurious drugs through stricter penalties.