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October 11, 2018

PML-N stages sit-in outside Punjab Assembly

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October 11, 2018

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.

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