MPAs from Mandi Bahauddin walk out from PA

LAHORE: Mandi Bahauddin district, on Friday, launched a rebellious drive against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led (PML-N) Punjab government over non provision of development funds to the district and demanded permission to adopt Sindh as the district’s pattern province.

Members of Provincial Assembly (MPAs) from the district, namely Tariq Mahmood Sahi from PP-116, Asif Bashir Bhagat PP-117, Major (r) Zulfiqar Ali Gondal PP-118, Waseem Afzal Gondal PP-119 and Tariq Mahmood Alloana PP-120 staged a walkout from the Punjab Assembly (PA) session on Friday.

Mandi Bahaudin is the only district in Punjab where Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won all five seats and the MPAs were of the view that the Punjab government’s discrimination towards the district was merely to teach a lesson to citizens for not electing PML-N candidates in the last general elections. They said the locals would not allow anyone to deprive them of their rights since they were progressive and patriotic people and knew how to speak up for their rights, an example being the time when they elected Fatima Jinnah against General Ayub Khan despite all the pressures and victimisation.

They said that the people living in Mandi Bahauddin were equal citizens of the country and they also paid equal amount of tax to the government, which made them worthy of getting equal development funds. The MPAs also warned that the district would adopt Sindh as its pattern province in case the provincial rulers did not pay heed to their demands.

They said that the PML-N-led government was deliberately not starting any development projects in the area, saying that facilities including a key hospital and roads were only built by the Pervaiz Elahi government. They also announced for a protest demonstration to be held at The Mall today (Saturday).

However, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah assured them that the Punjab government would take up the matter seriously and his government was ready to sit and discuss possibilities with the honourable members of opposition. He further said that he will arrange a meeting between opposition leader Raja Riaz and Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Shahbaz Sharif’s advisor Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa within a couple of days.

Earlier, while addressing the House, Raja Riaz stated that the “throne of Lahore” was conspiring against the people of Mandi Bahauddin. He said that he had met the CM around one-and-a-half-month ago to discuss the same issue, and the CM had promised that Khosa would meet him within a week, however, nothing had happened so far.

Meanwhile, Zulfiqar Gonal refused Sanaullah’s proposals and said that a committee should be formed instead to probe the matter. Asif Bahsir Bhagat also warned that people of Mandi Bahauddin will launch a civil disobedience movement and they (MPAs) will ask the people to stop paying taxes to the Punjab government if the discrimination continued. During the session, the opposition benches demanded PA Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan to issue production order for Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s (PML-Q) MPA Moonis Elahi, however, the speaker refused to issue any orders in this regard under the pretext of non-provision of rules.

PML-Q’s Parliamentary Leader Ch Zaheeruddin, soon after the initiation of the session, asked the speaker to follow the precedent set by National Assembly’s (NA) speaker and issue production order for Moonis Elahi. For the first time, the PPP also supported the PML-Q on the issue. He pleaded to the speaker to follow the example set by NA speaker who had issued production orders for PML-N MNA Aqeel Anjum, who had been under police custody at the time owing to corruption charges.

Meanwhile, Raja Riaz, seconded Ch Zaheeruddin’s demand, repeating the same and asking permission for Moonis Elahi to attend the PA session. However, Rana Iqbal refused to issue Elahi’s production orders, saying that the rules of business do not allow him to do so. He said that it was the provincial assembly that could empower him to issue such orders but only after certain amendments were made in the set rules and regulations.

To this, Ahsanul Haq Nolatia from PPP said that policies of the House did not allow the speaker to issue production orders, however, they do not restrict the House’s custodian from doing the same. Moreover, in the absence of any such rules, the provincial assembly was bound to follow its mother institution, the NA. Meanwhile, Sanaullah upon the objections raised by the opposition, said that as per the rules of the provincial assembly, the custodian of the House too was not allowed to issue such orders.

He said that during the PML-Q’s regime, he and his party had repeatedly requested Ch Zaheeruddin and the then provincial law minister Raja Basharat to make amendments in the rules of the business, however, they had not paid any heed to their requests at the time maybe because they had never imagined that they could land in a similar situation in the future.

He cited the precedent of a PML-N lawmaker of the previous provincial assembly, Nazir Dogar alias Mithu Dogar from Vehari, who had been arrested by police several times and the PML-Q had refused to amend the rules despite repeated requests from the PML-N since they, at the time, were in majority in the House and were under the shelter of a dictator.

During the session, the PML-Q women members were constantly chanting slogans in the Speaker’s favour and authority in order to instigate him. speaker Rana Iqbal, however, remained adamant and said that without getting authority from the House and amendment in the business rules, he would not issue the production orders for Moonis Elahi.

At this point, Raja Riaz staged a walkout in protest over the speaker’s refusal to issue a production order for Moonis Elahi. After a few minutes, PPP members returned to the House, but the PML-Q legislators refused to come back and continued their protest. Separately, MPA Waseem Qadir, on a point of order, informed the House that a journalist Malik Munir had been kidnapped from Karachi due to his bold questioning before the provincial rulers, the incident being a reflection of non-democratic attitude of the rulers. Earlier, the journalist community had staged a protest in front of the PA to condemn the incident. – Dailytimes