Constitutional crisis brewing in Punjab

Government, opposition adamant on holding parallel sessions of Punjab Assembly

Lawmakers at Aiwan-e-Iqbal

Punjab is heading towards another constitutional crisis as both the government and the opposition have refused to budge from their stance of holding two parallel sessions of Punjab Assembly.

It seems that the matter will once again be decided by the courts as a petition was moved by Speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Parvez Elahi in Lahore High Court on Monday against the budget session being conducted at Aiwan-e-Iqbal. Moreover, Elahi also issued the agenda for the session to be held in Punjab Assembly today (Tuesday) at 1:00pm. The agenda was issued by the orders of Muhammad Khan Bhatti, a close confidant of Elahi, and who is also the secretary Punjab Assembly.

It is interesting to note that Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari had made Amer Habib as Acting Secretary of Punjab Assembly and he is performing his duties at Aiwan-e-Iqbal session. Surprisingly, Elahi also put some legislation business on the agenda item. The Punjab Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill will be taken up by the House, said the agenda item issued by Elahi. Moreover, three resolutions related to the public interest are also part of the agenda.

It is yet to be seen what happens to the legislative business in the absence of the treasury lawmakers. Moreover, a general discussion on the constitutional crisis, price hike and the situation of law and order are also part of the agenda. During the budget session going on at Aiwan-e-Iqbal, the treasury lawmakers showered praise on Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz for presenting a ‘people-friendly’ budget.

There is no opposition in the house and therefore the MPAs did not face any resistance in their speeches. PML-N’s seasoned parliamentarian Manazar Hussain Ranjha said that Parvez Elahi has made the Punjab Assembly his personal property and isn’t allowing an elected government to present the budget there. “A new parliamentary history of Punjab is being written and it will be a dark spot just due to the ego of one individual,” Ranjha said, who has also served as deputy speaker in the past.

Speaking on the budget, he said that the PML-N will have to deliver in the next few months if it wants to win the next elections. “We have to do work of three years in just a few months,” he said. PML-N lawmaker Azma Bukhari raised the issue of the absence of ministers from the house. “There is no one here to listen to the issue of law and order,” she said. Azma was of the view that action should be taken against the drug addicts who use drugs openly at different roads of the city.

“A drug addict sold the country. Action must be taken against all the drug addicts before they sell the society,” the chair gave the ruling. Panel of Chairman Khalil Tahir Sandhu chaired the sitting for third consecutive day in the absence of deputy speaker. Finance Minister Sardar Awais Laghari wasn’t seen in the house during the budget session and some lawmakers also complained about his absence during the most important session. It was said that another minister, Bilal Warraich, was there to represent the finance minister and he is taking the suggestions of MPAs on budget. MPAs Malik Arshad, Zakiya Shah Nawaz, Dr. Muzafar Sheikh, Rana Liaqat, Zaib-un-Nisa, Mirza Javed and Taha Noon participated in the general discussion on budget. The session was later adjourned to meet again today (Tuesday) at 2:00pm in Aiwan-e-Iqbal.