LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly (PA), for the third time during the on-going budget session witnessed uproar when the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) legislators started off with a word affray over the PML-N chief’s statement regarding Pakistan Army.Eventually, Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Ahmed Khan had to intervene and calm both the sides to stop the situation from getting worse. The session started on Wednesday, one hour late from its scheduled time, under the chairmanship of Speaker Rana Iqbal. The House approved all 43 demands for funds, including the remaining 40 demands that asked for allotment of funds amounting to Rs 653 billion.
In the course of giving approval to the 43 demands for grants, the House with a majority rejected all the cut motions submitted by the opposition. Soon after, the assembly proceedings started. PA Opposition Leader, Raja Riaz, on a point of order said that Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khosa had written a letter to the chief minister (CM), demanding explanation and details of the names of the countries as well as the organisations from which donations and grants would not be accepted by the provincial government.
He added that answers to some other questions had also been demanded, including the list of the countries from which the grants and loans were considered acceptable. He said that the letter also inquired details of the foreign-funded projects in the province and their future after the suspension of foreign loans. Raja Riaz said that the government should not repeat the mistake of the previous governments by granting funds to rich class institutions. He said that the government should give the funds to the public sector educational institutions instead of giving them to private institutions.He said that the PML-N was sponging the support of the turncoats who had extended their full cooperation to former president Pervez Musharraf, and were now supporting the PML-N. In response to the remarks issued by Raja Riaz, the CM said, “These foreign grants are offered against the blood of our countrymen. We, as a nation, have to decide whether these grants spotted with the blood of our fellow countrymen should be accepted at the cost of our national respect and dignity.”
He proposed that a day especially be fixed in the PA for discussion over foreign loans after the budget session was completed. He was of the view that the country’ self respect could not be pledged against some coins, adding that country’s sovereignty and freedom was being worn out for vested interests. He said that the buildings and infrastructure established from foreign grants received against the blood of innocent citizens would never prosper and the time would prove that the grants must be refused.He, however, said that he was quite confident that the House would adopt the decision of refusing foreign aids and grants taken at the cost of country’s respect and dignity.Upon this, Raja Riaz stood up on his seat and said that it was pleasant indeed that the CM, after four years had finally realised that foreign aid was being taken at the cost of innocent citizens’ blood. He said that parliament was to decide whether foreign aid should be accepted or refused.
He said that the PPP helped the provincial government in budget approval only because of President Zardari’s direction and in persuasion of reconciliatory policy of the party.PML-Q parliamentary leader, Chaudhry Zaheer, while praising the CM’s announcement of leaving the decision of foreign aid to parliament said that they were ready to accept whatever decision parliament takes. He also asked PML-N to stop criticising the army, saying, “Divided politicians could not deliver and please the nation.” He said that they were ready to cooperate with the Punjab government only if the budget allocations were utilised correctly.Meanwhile, PPP lawmaker Colonel Gulam Shabbair on a point of order said that the PML-N chief criticised the army only when it pleased him, otherwise he was busy chanting the mantra “everything was right”.He cited the statement of Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi which stated, “If a country was to be made weak, its army should first be weakened.”The statement created chaos in the House and the PML-N legislators strongly protested and stood up on the seats. The House became a fish market as every legislator was shouting and using abusive language.
Provincial Minister for Food, Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor said that the PPP must check its own character before speaking in favour of the army.He said that Nawaz Sharif did not speak against any institution and only criticised those army generals who were involved in violating the country’s constitution, hence, causing heavy loss to the national interests.Meanwhile, a protest was also being held by media persons in the press gallery against the land grabbing by qabza mafia at Journalist Housing Colony and against the incident of bullying and money snatching from Lahore Press Club Manager Aqil Ahmed. They boycotted the assembly session and staged a walkout.
They staged a sit-in at the entrance of the assembly building. Eventually, upon the assurance of formation of a five-member committee by Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, the protest was ended.Sanaullah informed the House that he would personally look after the affairs of the journalist colony, adding that Police Inspector General and the CCPO had already been summoned in this regard. He also declared that a stern action would be taken against persons involved in the incidents besides registration of legal cases against them. Later, the speaker adjourned the House for 10am on Thursday (today). Voting on the Finance Bill 2011-12 is to be carried out in the PA today (Wednesday). – Dailytimes