A resolution sought to be moved by Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Mian Mehmoodur Rashid demanding that the government step up efforts for missing Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia and lodge an official protest with the Saudi government was not allowed on Thursday.
Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal said Rashid should take into consideration the fact that Pakistan had brotherly relations with Saudi Arabia.
The resolution had been submitted in the assembly secretariat last week.
Speaking on the stampede in Mina two weeks ago, Rasheed said the government had failed to address the issue seriously.
“This is a national tragedy. Hundreds of our citizens are missing,” he said.
The speaker interrupted him several times and asked him to tone down his protest.
Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said during the Business Advisory Committee meeting, it had been suggested that the resolution be amended to avoid blaming the Saudi government. He said the issue related to foreign policy and was beyond the PA’s purview.
Rasheed said that nothing in the resolution was objectionable. “The bodies have not been returned to the families. The matter cannot be taken lightly,” he said.
When Rasheed insisted that a protest be lodged with the Saudi government, the speaker asked him and the law minister to resolve the issue through discussion.
Another heated exchange occurred between Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) Arif Abbasi and the speaker when the former was not allowed to move a resolution on Nandipur power project.
When lawmakers took to chanting slogans against one another, the session was prorogued indefinitely. Four resolutions seeking extension for ordinances and passage of three bills could not be taken up as a result.
The Punjab Commission on the status of Women (Amendment) Bill 2015, the Punjab Maternity Benefits (amendments) Bill 2015 and the University of Okara Bill 2015, had been pending since Wednesday.
The opposition leader moved a privilege motion regarding the delay in provision of audit reports of local government bodies from 2001 to 2014.
He said Rs200 billion in misappropriations had been revealed in these reports.
The chair sought a response to the motion from the government.
The Prime Minister’s Kissan Package was also discussed.
The law minister said he hoped the Supreme Court would suspend the stay order against the package. “This package will help farmers,” he added.
Rashid said the government has remembered farmers’ after welfare seven years. “Before the [local government] election was called, they did not care about the farmers,” he said.
He said it was the opposition parties that had been highlighting the plight of farmers.
Earlier, responding to queries during the question hour, Parliamentary Secretary for Food Chaudhary Asadullah said under the Punjab Food Authority Ordinance, over 64,000 samples had been collected and fines over Rs20 million had been imposed.
He said 5,000 FIRs had been lodged and 770 people were arrested.
He said food authority committees and regional taskforces had been established across the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2015.