LAHORE – As the Punjab Assembly speaker did not entertain any of the resolutions on creation of new provinces, the house witnessed a pandemonium on Thursday when lawmakers started speaking on the issue on point of orders and nobody was ready to listen to the divergent views of others on both sides of the political divide.
Though the opposition had requisitioned the session to discuss law and order situation, alleged financial indiscipline in Punjab and prevailing sense of deprivation in the southern belt, but two legislators, PML-Q’s Ch Zaheeruddin and PML-Z’s Shahid Anjum, later submitted two separate resolutions in assembly secretariat seeking creation of south Punjab (Saraiki province) and Bahawalpur province, respectively. Ali Haider Noor Niazi of MMA, however, came up with a resolution in the middle of Thursday’s sitting, demanding making of ‘Thal Province’.Interestingly, Shahid Anjum and Ali Haider Niazi both are part of the government alliance in Punjab. It seems that PML-N decided not to come to the forefront and instead choose the coalition partners to demand for other provinces to neutralise the demand for Saraiki province coming from its rival parties, PPP and PML-Q.
Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal did not entertain any of the three resolutions, maintaining that they were in conflict with the constitution. The movers, however, were given the opportunity to speak out their mind on the issue which gave rise to an uproar in the house.Opposition Leader Raja Riaz pleaded his party’s case on the issue. The treasury members condemned the speeches of Raja Riaz and PML-Q parliamentary leader Ch Zaheeruddin Ahmad, as both spoke in favour of a separate province for southern Punjab. Conversely, the members on the opposition benches created commotion through continuous sloganeering when Shahid Anjum of PML-Z and Ali Haider Noor Niazi of MMA pleaded their case for creation of Bahawalpur and Thal province respectively. As the session started, Ch Zaheer stood on a point of order and diverted the chair’s attention towards the resolution he wanted to move in the house. He also requested the speaker that he be allowed to move it out of turn by suspending the relevant rules.While citing a previous resolution on the same subject submitted way back in June 25, 2010, and which got lapsed due to adjournment of the session, Zaheer said that PML-Q wanted a new province for southern Punjab on administrative grounds and not on linguistic basis. He said neighbouring India had 14 provinces at the time of partition, but now it has got 29. He said creation of more provinces had not weakened India, rather strengthened it. Zaheer also pointed out the long distance of district Rahimyar Khan from Lahore and proximity of Amratsar with it to substantiate his point for separate province status for southern Punjab.
He said there was no voice for separate province except in Punjab, and hence there was no need for setting up of any national commission on the issue as proposed by the PML-N. He threatened that if rejected, this peaceful demand for creation of a new province in southern Punjab may take ‘some other course’.
Opposition Leader Raja Riaz said that nobody could suppress the voice of new province in Punjab. “Now the opponents will not only have to listen to this demand, they will have to implement it”, he averred, adding, Takht-e-Lahore will be overturned this time.Raja said his party had been saying time and again that sense of deprivation in south Punjab was on a rise due to unequal distribution of resources. He said his party was ready to give blood if needed for creation of new province.Frequent interruptions from Treasury members marred opposition leader’s speech. PML-N MPAs Abdur Razzaq Dhiloon and Ghazala Dar were prominent among the legislators who tried to disrupt the opposition leader’s address by their frequent reference to shortage of electricity in the country. The opposition members responded by raising slogans: Taira Khawab, maira Khawab, Janoobi Punjab, Janoobi Punjab. Hum sab ki hai aik aawaz Bun k rahay ga Janoobi Punjab, Lay k rahain gay Janoobi Punjab.Noor Niaz came up with a demand for creation of Thal province and asked the chair to allow him move the resolution in the house in this regard. He called opposition members as traitors and chauvinists because they were demanding a separate province on linguistic grounds. He alleged that opposition wanted to break the country by demanding new province on ethnic grounds.
On being called traitors, the opposition members showed their resentment by raising slogans against him. A PML-Q legislator Majida Zaidi threw copies of assembly agenda on him in protest. Niazi got furious, turned back and walked a few steps towards the opposition benches to see who had performed that ‘obnoxious’ act. Finding no clue, he reportedly uttered objectionable remarks before coming back to is seat.This was enough to provoke PPP’s Fauzia Behram who gave him a push (while he was passing by). Later, she walked up to his seat and pushed him again. Seeing this, around a dozen MPAs from the treasury and opposition benches rushed to the ‘place of incident’ to set them apart. The speaker’s call for order fell on deaf ears. He gave five-minute time to members to come back to their seats and the threat worked. But, the House was in disorder again when Noor Niazi resumed his speech and continued with his tirade against the opposition members. This time, the speaker decided to adjourn the house for an hour.
When the session resumed after one-hour break, the speaker asked Niazi to apologise for the objectionable remarks. But he refused to comply with speaker’s order saying he had committed no offence. The opposition members insisted that he should tender and apology.In the meantime, Shahid Anjum of the PML-Z stood up on a point of order, and started reading out his resolution regarding creation of Bahawalpur province. He pleaded that Bahwalpur province should be created first before taking decision on any other province. He also sought speaker’s ruling about maintainability of his resolution but the chair reserved its ruling for some other day. The opposition members disrupted Anjum’s speech by raising slogans against him. Nothing was audible in the house when speaker prorogued the session sine die.
Earlier, the session started at 11:54am, one hour and 54 minutes behind its scheduled time. The one-day session cost the exchequer around Rs16 million, while the assembly did not take up the agenda for which the session had been convened.