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April 28, 2018

Unusual move in PA: Opp terms hasty legislation pre-poll rigging


April 28, 2018

LAHORE : Through its majority, the government in Punjab Assembly completely bulldozed the traditional legislative process and opposition’s protests on Friday to pass a piece of legislation that would allow the rulers to regularise the contractual employees working for at least four years.

It was unusual in the Punjab Assembly’s history that a bill was introduced, taken into consideration at once and passed on the same day and same instant, suspending all rules of business and procedure and ignoring relevant traditions to make way for the instant legislation.

The opposition members kept protesting against bypassing the relevant rules and procedure of legislation but the government bulldozed all resistance while Speaker Rana Iqbal Khan simply ignored the protests by the opposition members and their calls indicating that the House was not in quorum. Opposition members tore the copies of agenda, and threw its pieces towards the Chair, and kept raising slogans against the government, but all in vain. Strangely, the agenda of Friday’s official business mentioned that the Punjab (Regularisation of Service) Bill 2018 should be introduced, then relevant rules of procedure and business should be suspended, then the bill should be moved for consideration at once, and then it should be moved before the House for passage on the same day, without first referring it to the relevant standing committee for presenting its report. The agenda also contained seven other bills and an ordinance which were introduced in the House and the Speaker referred them to the relevant standing committees of the ministries concerned for presenting their reports within one month.

Leader of the Opposition Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed and other members of PTI alleged that the legislation with the speed of light was sheer pre-poll rigging by the rulers to accommodate their voters and supporters on government jobs before elections. He alleged that the same government had been ignoring for many years the protests of contractual workers calling for their regularisation, adding that the bill should have been referred to the standing committee of the relevant ministry for presenting its report as per the requirements of the Rules of Procedure and the traditions of legislation of the House.

The opposition member Mian Aslam Iqbal said the government had made a bad precedent of hooliganism in the legislative process. He accused the rulers of committing a gross pre-poll rigging to purchase voters at the expense of public money, merely a few months before the elections. Calling the legislation illegal, he said the PML-N government was employing the unconstitutional methods only because of its majority in the House. He alleged the government would only regularise their own voters and ignore all those whom they suspected of supporting the opposition parties.

Law Minister Rana Sanaullah rejected the opposition protests and alleged the opposition members were merely opposing the rights of poor workers suffering under contracts. He asked why the opposition members were opposing the regularisation of contract workers when the PML-N government had regularised them, saying the same opposition members used to go and express solidarity with the contract workers whenever they held protests. He said only those contractual workers would be regularised who had been working for four years on contract and against the existing vacancies.

The government also introduced seven other bills and laid one ordinance in the House, which the speaker referred to the standing committees concerned for submission of their reports on them. The bills were The Explosive Substances (Punjab Amendment) Bill 2018, The Punjab Witness Protection Bill 2018, The Punjab Government Servants Housing Foundation (Amendment) Bill 2018, The Registration (Punjab Amendment ) Bill 2018, The Punjab Fisheries (Amendment ) Bill 2018, The Punjab Bonded Labour System (Abolition) (Amendment) Bill 2018, and The Punjab Agricultural Marketing Regulatory Authority Bill 2018. The government also laid The Punjab Sound Systems (Regulation) (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 in the House.

Earlier, the proceedings suffered a break when the opposition’s Shehnila Ruth indicated that the House was not in quorum as soon as the day’s proceedings began. The Speaker ordered ringing of bells and suspended the proceedings for 25 minutes, resuming them after the quorum was completed.

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