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December 8, 2018

Opp protests ministers’ absence from Punjab Assembly


December 8, 2018

LAHORE: The opposition in the Punjab Assembly Friday protested absence of ministers prompting the deputy speaker to instruct the government to “make sure it doesn’t happen again”.

In the ongoing session, most ministers haven’t either bothered to visit the assembly even for a single day, or they left the PA after marking attendance.

While Chief Minister Usman Buzdar hasn’t made any appearance in the Punjab Assembly so far, Law Minister Raja Basharat and Minister for Prosecution Chaudhry Zaheer are the key figures answering questions in the absence of ministers or normalizing relations with a mighty opposition to ensure smooth proceedings in the house.

Between Monday and Friday, in the first five days of the ongoing session of the PA, a cabinet that includes nearly three dozen ministers and around seven elected advisers and special assistants represented the Buzdar government.

On the first day of the ongoing session, only 13 ministers were present and the proceedings had to face adjournment over lack of quorum. This is interesting to note that some of the ministers attend the PA session only to mark attendance and either move to their chamber or leave the assembly premises within minutes.

On Monday, when the quorum was pointed out and Law Minister Raja Basharat was busy gathering the party MPAs, some ministers didn’t even leave their chambers and the house faced adjournment for failing to meet the required numbers.

Even if the cabinet with around 40 elected members had ensured their representation in the house, the quorum would have been met easily. On the next day when the session commenced, there were only 10 cabinet members and just a few more joined after the proceedings started.

On Friday, when the quorum was pointed out during a debate on health, around 87 PTI members including 15 Punjab cabinet members were present. The quorum was not complete again. In the absence of Aleem Khan, the question hour session related to the Local Government couldn’t take place as so far the Buzdar government hasn’t been able to announce parliamentary secretaries who could answer queries in case the ministers concerned are absent.

In the same week, Chaudhry Zaheeruddin Khan, minister for Prosecution, answered queries related to Irrigation and Transport because Mohsin Leghari, the minister concerned, was on official visit to Islamabad. Another embarrassing situation occurred for the PTI on Friday when Minister for Communication and Works Asif Nakai, who interestingly has been regularly attending the PA session, skipped the question hour session related to his department for some reason. The house was told that over some “health issues”, he couldn’t reach assembly in time. However, he reached the assembly immediately after the question hour was over. The opposition protested this issue on which the deputy speaker instructed the government to “make sure it doesn’t happen again”.

The ministers and advisers, who somehow have made regular appearance in the PA on at least three out of the last five days, are Dr Murad Raas, Dr Yasmin Rashid, Hasnain Bahadur Dareshak, Muhammad Akhlaque, Faisal Jaboana, Khurram Leghari and Raja Yasir Humayyon. The ministers who have been seen regularly during the first four or five days include Law Minister Raja Basharat, Prosecution Minister Chaudhry Zaheer, Information Minister Fayazul Hassan Chohan, Housing Minister Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed and Mines and Minerals Minister Hafiz Ammar Yasir. Malik Nauman Langrial and Samiullah Chaudhry, the ministers related to the Agricultural and Food Department, were regular on the last two days when a debate over the sector was called. The law minister was telephoned for his point of view on this issue but he didn't respond.

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