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Why was Punjab Assembly’s sanctity violated?

Heavy police presence on the assembly floor stunned lawmakers belonging to PML-Q, PTI

As he arrived and sat on his chair to preside over the much-awaited session of the Punjab Assembly for the election of the new Punjab chief minister, deputy speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari met with an unusual situation as angry Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MPAs threw ‘lotas’ at him.

They gathered around his chair, called him a ‘turncoat’, beat and kicked him. But the security officials of the assembly secretariat covered him with their arms and bodies and escorted him out of the building from the wrath of the angry lawmakers.

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The violence engulfed the entire house as every member present there was feeling the brunt of it.

Realising the gravity of the situation, the deputy speaker wrote a letter to the inspector general of police (IGP) and demanded security for smooth conduct of the house proceedings.

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“I will conduct the house proceedings at all costs,” roared Mazari as he was escorted out of the house by security officials. Mazari vowed that he would complete the ‘democratic process’.

“My first priority is the success of democracy and not revenge,” he further said.

Moments later as he appeared again in the house to start the proceedings, the situation was entirely different and unprecedented. There were heavy police contingents on the floor of the assembly, a scene that stunned the lawmakers, especially the PML-Q and the PTI.

The police had made a wall by standing around the chair of the deputy speaker so that he could start the civil administration. The police presence angered Chaudhary Pervez Elahi who termed it totally against the sanctity of the house.

“The IGP should be summoned here and be sent to jail for one month,” reacted Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, saying that he had never witnessed such a situation ever in the Punjab Assembly since he entered into politics.

Not just Mazari, but Elahi also got injured due to the fight inside the assembly.

The Lahore High Court on Friday had allowed Mazari to hold the Punjab Assembly session. The IGP and the chief secretary had assured the court of smooth conduct of the proceedings for the election of the new Punjab chief minister.

But it all happened just because of the inefficient security of the Punjab Assembly as the civil administration had no other option to implement the court orders except to call the police to intervene – which the lawmakers believe is tantamount to disrespecting the legislative assembly.

The absence of the proper legal framework for the security of the Punjab Assembly – or any other legislative assembly – leaves the officers in limbo to take proper action to control the lawmakers punching and kicking each other as the police interference is considered ‘insulting’ in the eyes of many lawmakers.

“They called the police just because of the court verdict. It is totally against the sanctity of the house but the civil administration had no other option except to call in the police on the assembly floor,” says Khurram Chughtai, a renowned legal expert.

Chughtai believes police presence on the assembly floor is a clear interference in the house proceeding as it had never happened in the history of the provincial legislature.

“Article 69 read with Article 130 is about the provincial assembly but the interference of the police cannot be justified. It is the high court verdict that paved the way for the civil administration to call in the police. Otherwise, there is no other option and the laws are silent on it,” he adds.

The lawyer stated that the situation that emerged on Saturday indicates that there are no clear cut legal solutions to counter such a situation. The events which unfolded at the Punjab Assembly have exposed the security system.

He also said the assembly building – which houses over 371 members besides many other staff members, guests and journalists – needs a proper ‘security mechanism’ to counter the scenes witnessed on Saturday.



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