LAHORE: Acting beyond the scope of power given to him under the Punjab Assembly’s Rules of Business, Speaker Pervaiz Elahi ordered lockdown of the assembly building, barring MPAs and media from entering the premises.
The security staff locked all gates to deny entrance. When they were told that they could not do this according to the rules, the reply was they had been directed by the speaker to lock these down and not allow anyone to enter, even members and media.
The move came as the PML-N had planned to hold a ‘Punjab Assembly protest session’ at the premises against the arrest of party president Shahbaz Sharif. Resultantly, they had to stage sit-in outside the assembly building.
Both Pervaiz Elahi and Assembly Secretary Muhammad Ali Bhatti refused to comment on the issue despite exhaustive contacts. The Punjab Assembly Rules of Business do not mandate any such power to the speaker to prohibit the entry of an elected member into the premises, regardless of the assembly being in session or not.
Rule 210 “Power to order withdrawal of members or suspend sitting” states,” The Speaker shall preserve order and shall have all powers necessary for the purpose of enforcing his orders. (2) The Speaker may direct any member whose conduct is, in his opinion, grossly disorderly, to withdraw immediately from the Assembly, and any member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall absent himself during the remainder of the sitting. (3) If any member is ordered to withdraw a second or subsequent time in the same session, the Speaker may direct the member to absent himself from the sittings of the Assembly for any period not exceeding fifteen days and the member so directed shall absent himself accordingly. (4) The Speaker may, in the case of grave disorder in the Assembly, suspend a sitting for a time to be named by him or adjourn the Assembly.”
This rule clearly lies down that this power would only be exercised while the assembly is in session and a member becomes too dowdy “inside the House”. The speaker also has the power to have people removed from the gallery if they cause threat to the order of the assembly. Pervaiz Elahi, however, abused his power and acted outside the ambit of his designated jurisdiction.
Leader of the Opposition Hamza Shehbaz and other MPAs tried to push the doors open but they couldn’t. Punjab Assembly Press Gallery President Khawaja Naseer too condemned this act and maintained that these orders should be immediately withdrawn as they set a very bad precedent.
When contacted, former deputy speaker Sher Ali Gorchani said there was not an inkling of doubt that it was abuse of power as no rule allowed the speaker to issue such orders. He said even when the assembly was not in session, MPAs could visit to submit resolutions or to address their bank issues as the relevant bank branch was inside the assembly premises.
He said the speaker only had power to remove misbehaving members from the main hall of the assembly which was identified as “The House”. Hamza termed this lockdown as lockdown of democracy by PTI in the province and said the PTI and its allies, who had left no ‘cussing word’ unsaid about the assembly and the government of the time, did not even have the audacity to tolerate criticism by an elected member of the assembly.
He said Pervaiz Elahi was the same person who robbed Punjab Bank off 22 billion rupees and Imran Khan called him the biggest dacoit, however, Mr Niazi had all of a sudden suffered amnesia and the looting of billions of taxpayer’s money wasn’t important the prime minister if that benefited him.
He said those who touted tall claims of ridding the police of political influence were acting in desperation to influence the police by suspending DPO, transferring the IG of the largest province for political gains, and to influence the by-elections putting the Leader of the Opposition under arrest without even a formal reference.
“If Imran Khan is so fond of accountability, let’s see him start it from himself, by presenting himself in the helicopter case and removing encroachments at Bani Gala, investigating the offshore assets of your sister Aleema Khan. It is only the PML-N leaders like Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif who have the guts and honour to start accountability from their own selves and present themselves before the law.”
Hamza warned Imran not to threaten the PML-N with prison as they had braved Attock jail. “However, Mr Niazi won’t be able to survive two days in prison,” he remarked, once again calling the prime minister a product of manipulated elections. In his speech at the protest session of the Punjab Assembly called by the opposition alliance to protest the arrest of Shahbaz, he said the prime minister should be held accountable for his incompetence that resulted in Rs 9 increase in the price of dollar which led to an increase of Rs 900 billion debt of Pakistan.
Hamza said these tactics could not snub the voice of PML-N leaders from exposing the misdoings and blunders of the PTI government that have already pushed the country into a dark alley economically and administratively. He once again reiterated his resolve to block any meddling with the local government system of Punjab.
Hamza said Shahbaz was the most efficient chief minister in the country’s history and had saved hundreds of billions. He would be exonerated by the law and these scare tactics of PTI would not back the PML-N down, he added. Rana Iqbal, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Hina Pervaiz Butt, Manazir Hussain Ranjha, Waris Kahlon, Khawaja Imran, Tariq Gill, Rana Manan, Pir Ashraf Rasul, Malik Nadeem Kamran, Samiullah Khan, Azma Bukhari, Zakiya Shahnawaz, Zaibunnisa Awan and other PML-N leaders also spoke on the occasion.
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