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May 17, 2016

PA shelves pension fund debate over quorum


May 17, 2016


Punjab Assembly for the impressive fifth time this ongoing session was adjourned on Monday due to failure to reach the required number of members needed. As a result, an important discussion on the Annual Reports of Punjab Pension Fund for the years 2010-11 and 2011-12 was shelved for a later undecided time. 

Turnout of both benches was embarrassingly low with no member of the Punjab Cabinet present to participate in the House business and the Leader of the Opposition PTI MPA Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed also absent from the proceedings. Call attention notices to be answered by Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah were also ruled pending as Sanaullah was not present in the House along with a series of adjournment motions to be taken up by relevant parliamentary secretaries.

Even as Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government Ramzan Siddiqi Butt and Parliamentary Secretary for Home Mahar Ijaz Ahmad Achlana were present in the House, they did not have information to respond to the tabled motions. The PA Speaker seemingly frustrated by the lack of serious attitude ruled that the answers be given as soon as possible.  Meanwhile, Parliamentary Secretary for Health Khawaja Imran Nazeer faced a tough time responding to critical questions on the continuing health practices of quacks exploiting needy patients and their families, lack of surprise visits from responsible bureaucrats of Basic Health Units (BHU) in rural areas, including parts of Sahiwal, and missing facilities and staff vacancies in public hospitals. He explained that the court had ultimate discretion to seal and close institutes being run by quacks as Punjab Healthcare Commission did not have this authority as per a landmark decision of the Lahore High Court on a petition, adding however that a letter would be written to Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to stop quacks from TV and radio. He added that surprise visits from EDOs were occurring on a routine basis and information gathered after the visits was being compiled as data and uploaded onto a system devised by Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) as a part of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s Health Reforms Road Map. The parliamentary secretary; however, admitted that 35 percent of hospitals in the province had missing facilities and funds were being allocated to make these fully functional. He stated that the government had held successful meetings with the Young Doctors Association to fill up vacant posts in rural areas and it had been conveyed to officials in the Public Service Commission to relax the age of retirement. 

The session was adjourned for Tuesday (today).

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