Frustrated by the lack of answers to their questions, opposition MPAs of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly walked out of Friday’s session. An absence of ministers meant the lawmakers were left in the dark over a number of queries.
Tell me why
Acting speaker Anisa Zeb Tahirkheli deferred the questions for the next session on Tuesday when the relevant ministers would be in the house to provide answers. However, this failed to satiate the opposition’s curiosity.
At the start of the session, a weak quorum was highlighted by the parliamentarians and proceedings were delayed for an initial half an hour. When the period ended, the thin attendance was pointed out again and the session was delayed for another hour and a half.
Opposition member Fazal Ghafoor Khan from Buner questioned which official would reply to his query as neither the relevant minister nor the latter’s parliamentary secretary were present in the house.
“I will not allow the session to proceed until I get satisfactory answer,” he said in frustration. “This is unfair as there are two dozen secretaries and their assistants. Where are all of them?” he asked.
Abdus Sattar Khan, meanwhile, questioned the lack of work or progress on tourism projects which had already been approved, such as the chairlifts in Kaghan. He demanded the treasury benches give him a reply.
Minister for Health Shahram Tarakai tried to convince Sattar and requested him to allow the question be deferred till Tuesday. “Why was the question put on the agenda if the minister was not intending to come?” asked acting speaker Tahirkheli. She also commented the minister should have at least informed the house about his absence. The opposition members demanded the issue be forwarded to the standing committee.
According to Minister for Finance Muzaffar Said, this was a serious matter and notice should be taken. “When a question is asked of a ministry, its officials should provide the relevant answer,” he said. Tahirkheli later marked the query as a special case to be taken up on Tuesday.
Off they go
Opposition members staged a walkout against the absence of ministers but were later convinced by Shaukat Yousafzai and Tarakai to call off the protest. The acting speaker said the matter would be brought to the attention of the chief minister and chief secretary.
The treasury benches also failed to satisfy an MPA from their newly allied party, QWP.
Meraj Humayun asked a question on the number of women’s police stations in the province. The answer provided by the Home Ministry pointed to two such establishments in Peshawar and Abbottabad.
Special Assistant to Chief Minister Arif Yousaf, instead of giving the exact answer, started discussing policy and police performance. Tahirkheli, in her own words, asked him to provide the necessary answer. However, Yousaf failed to give the exact number or reveal how many of women’s police stations would be built in future. Ultimately, the speaker asked him to sit with the opposition and provide the relevant information.
Awami National Party parliamentary leader Sardar Hussain Babak took the government to task over the year-long delay in the official notification of the Ehtesab Commission.
“Employees have been denied salaries, people are being harassed, arrests have been made and noble individuals went through humiliation over the last year thanks to an institution which only came into being a few days ago,” he said. PML-N’s Sardar Ahmad Nalotha pointed out that a chairman was appointed for the commission even before the notification. The house also introduced Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Medical Teaching Institutions Reforms (Second amendment) Bill 2015.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2015.