Punjab in crisis as two budget sessions called simultaneously

Elahi left red-faced as governor prorogues existing session, summoning fresh one at Aiwan-e-Iqbal

The Punjab Assembly on Tuesday witnessed yet another dramatic day when provincial minister Sardar Awais Laghari, who was assigned the task to present the budget, refused to give the budget speech.

A delay of more than 9 hours was seen, as multiple rounds of talks between the government and the opposition were held over summoning the Punjab Police inspector general (IG) and the chief secretary. There was a complete deadlock between the government and opposition for the second consecutive day over the issue.

The opposition had earlier demanded that both the IG and the CS should come to the House and seek an apology from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) members of the provincial assembly (MPAs) who faced police crackdown during the long march announced by PTI Chairman Imran Khan. The government said a big ‘no’ to the opposition, as the ministers and the CM himself said that the IG and CS would not come.

After failures of talks, Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi came to the House to chair the session after almost 9 hours behind the scheduled time of 1 pm. It seemed that the PML-N had already made up its mind to prorogue the session on the orders of the governor.

Elahi invited Sardar Awais Laghari to deliver the budget speech but he refused. “Mr Speaker, I respect you a lot but I want to share that the Punjab governor has prorogued this session and therefore it has no more constitutional legality,” Laghari said. It was a sheer embarrassment for Elahi, who said that the governor had no authority to prorogue the session. Later, Elahi read the order and said that the session of the Punjab Assembly was adjourned to meet again today at 1 pm.

As the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmakers were leaving the House, the speaker – taking notice of Atta Tarar’s presence – called his name twice but he did not take notice and continued walking outside the House. Meanwhile, Secretary Coordination Anayat Ullah Lak immediately interrupted Elahi, who perhaps taking cue called PTI leader Raja Basharat. Elahi was calling his close aide and the former law minister, but Basharat was nowhere to be seen to rescue the speaker.

A notification was issued by the governor in which he prorogued the 40th session while summoning a fresh session at Aiwan-e-Iqbal today (Wednesday) at 2 pm in which Awais Laghari will present the provincial budget. Later, talking to the media outside the Punjab Assembly, Laghari said that the speaker had held the Punjab Assembly hostage, so they were now holding the session at some other place as they were left with no other option. “I came after preparing my speech for two days but the speaker didn’t allow me. He only allowed when he came to know that the session has been prorogued by the governor,” Laghari said. According to the PML-N, Elahi will be invited to chair the session at Aiwan-e-Iqbal. If Elahi doesn’t appear, the deputy speaker will chair the session.

Later, talking to the media outside the assembly, Elahi said that the session called at Aiwan-e-Iqbal was unconstitutional. “The Punjab Assembly Secretariat didn’t receive any notification yet, so the session of Aiwan-e-Iqbal doesn’t have any constitutional legality,” he said.

On the other hand, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz said the opposition was trying to hinder the present government’s public service mission by delaying the provincial budget.

Talking to the media outside the Punjab Assembly, he said law and the constitution were being violated and the opposition had its own agenda. He said conducting the assembly proceeding was an obligation of the speaker but he, along with other opposition members, was sticking to the demand of calling the chief secretary and the IG to the House. Hamza deplored that the media had been stopped from entering the Punjab Assembly. He said the opposition was playing with the institutions and had no respect for law and the constitution.