A big day: Opposition boycotts chief minister’s rare address

Punjab AssemblyLAHORE: Thursday should have been a big day for the Punjab Assembly as the chief minister attended the session after eight months.

However, he addressed the assembly after the opposition had walked out. The reason: Sharif chose to sit in his chambers instead of coming straight to the house.The session had begun with an 80-minute delay.Trouble brewed when members of the opposition learnt that the chief minister was on the premises. They demanded the speaker summon him to the house. The speaker replied that he could not be force any member of the house to attend the proceedings.

Ehsanul Haq Naulatia of the Pakistan Peoples Party said, when there was a call attention notice, under Rule 62 of the Punjab Assembly’s Rules of Procedures 1997, only the chief minister or a minister representing the relevant department could respond to it. Referring to a notice about the Home Department, he said that since Sharif held the department portfolio, he should come to the house and respond to it.Law Minister Rana Sanaullah pointed out that a notification giving him the additional charge of the Home Department had already been issued.

Zulfiqar Gondal, PPP’s parliamentary leader, then accused both the speaker and the treasury of “not following the rules”. “The chief minister has come to the assembly after eight months but decided to just sit in his chamber to please 47 turncoats ahead of the Senate vote,” said the PPP leader.The PPP and PML-Q members then walked out.

PPP’s Sagheera Islam also pointed out the quorum but treasury members met the requirement.Shortly afterwards, Sharif came to the house and delivered a speech on the Balochistan situation. The only opposition member in attendance was Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s Mohsin Leghari.

Sharif stressed the need for “soul-searching” by politicians, saying that a Punjab Assembly resolutions to condemn a resolution tabled in the US Congress was not enough.“Since Pakistan’s inception, there have been military campaigns in Balochistan… be it General Ayub Khan’s regime or [PPP founder] Bhutto’s,” he said.

He held former president Pervez Musharraf responsible for the current Balochistan crisis. He said, instead of addressing the Baloch grievances Musharraf had killed Nawab Akbar Bugti.The federal government was also criticised for only “issuing statements from the bunker of the Presidency”.

The chief minister called Bugti a patriot who, he said, was ready to negotiate with Musharraf but was made to wait for five hours at the Quetta airport and then “disgracefully asked to leave”.The chief minister told the house that senior Baloch leader Sardar Ataullah Mengal had told him that the disgruntled Baloch were no longer listening to him and were eager to fight Pakistani forces. He warned “certain people” against believing that the insurgency was limited only to a few areas.

However, the chief minister also sounded an optimistic note. “If Germany could be reunited then why can’t we address the grievances of the Baloch?” he said. The Punjab had conceded Rs11 billion to Balochistan under the seventh National Finance Commission award from what used to be its share, he added.Yet, he said, there was little that an all-parties conference proposed by the prime minister could achieve.

He requested the speaker to constitute a committee comprising members from all parties to prepare a resolution that mentions army excesses in Balochistan under various governments. He asked it should assure the Baloch that the Punjab would do all it can to address their grievances.

The speaker announced a panel led by Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan.Mohsin Leghari asked that the government ensure that Baloch students are admitted in educational institutes in the Punjab. He said the British rule was to respect the Baloch to rule them. “Pakistani rulers have not respected the Baloch.

Only increasing development work in the province is not the solution.”Sharif replied that a large number of Baloch students were studying in the Punjab, including in the Daanish Schools.He also condemned the sectarian killings in Kohistan.At 3pm, the session was adjourned till 9am on Friday after a few speeches in the pre-budget debate. – Thetribune