Punjab Assembly: Tempers, harsh words fly in the House

Punjab AssemblyLAHORE: The opposition and treasury have always had harsh words for each other in the Punjab Assembly but Monday was a particularly ugly day.

It started with the opposition criticising the Punjab government for the PIC tragedy, which has resulted in 92 documented deaths so far. The ministers retaliated. Offended members on both sides lost their tempers, thumped desks and exchanged harsh words.The chair, Deputy Speaker Rana Mashhood, suspended the proceedings twice taking a 10-minute break each time. During the breaks, he met with representatives of both sides in his chamber, hoping to calm them down. After these efforts failed he adjourned the session till Tuesday. Mashhood said that he would carefully look at the Monday proceedings video and then fix responsibility for the ruckus.

The session had started an hour later than its scheduled time of 3pm. Minister for Auqaf Department answered members’ questions during the Question Hour.It was after the Question Hour ended that pandemonium erupted.Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)’s Deputy Parliamentary Leader Shaukat Mehmood Basra rising on a point of order said that the Punjab government was “hushing up” the PIC issue. Instead of fixing responsibility and arresting those responsible for the tragedy, he said, the government had made some “innocent” doctors scapegoats.

Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan defended the suspension of doctors. He said that the PIC administration had concealed the facts from the Punjab government. “They knew what was happening as early as January 11 but instead of informing the government they tried to control the situation themselves and failed,” he said, adding that that was why the doctors had been suspended.The law minister told the House that preliminary reports, by drug testing laboratories in the Punjab, indicated that the problem did not lie in the ‘active’ ingredients. He said samples had now been sent abroad to test the ‘inactive’ ingredients.

“The opposition should remember that the federal government has more than 70 ministries. The PML-Q government used to have 72 ministers. Instead of criticising us, the opposition should try to learn something,” Sanaullah said. PML-Q’s Parliamentary Leader Chaudhry Zaheeruddin Khan then said, “It is regrettable that the Parliamentary Secretary for Health Dr Saeed Elahi who had promised to brief the House daily is not in the House.” To this, Sanaullah said that Elahi had come to the House on Friday for the briefing but PPP members had pointed out the quorum.

Basra said that the PPP would force the chief minister to either delegate or present a report to the House about the PIC incident. He used some harsh words for Shahbaz Sharif, which provoked the treasury.Sanaullah rose in his seat at this point and with some derogatory language for Basra, reminded him that the chief minister had suspended rules to provide Rs1.3 million for the treatment of his son. He said that Basra should not have used such words for his benefactor.PPP’s Ashraf Shona demanded that Sanaullah apologise but he did not. This was followed by an exchange of harsh words and more abusive language, expunged from the record at the Chair’s direction.