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Panama Papers: Treasury, Opp dish the dirt on each other

Panama Papers: Treasury, Opp dish the dirt on each other

LAHORE: The Panama Papers made a surprise resurgence in the Punjab Assembly on Tuesday -- after a relative calm for five days -- when Leader of Opposition Mahmoodur Rasheed stood up to demand taking up his resolution on the subject out of order.

His demand, which was rejected last Thursday, hardly made procedural sense though politically it did.

After rejection from the chair again on Tuesday, the Opposition distracted the House agenda for the next 20 minutes during which sloganeering made everything else inaudible.

The slogans soon degenerated to personal level as MPs of the Treasury and the Opposition hit each other below the belt by dishing dirt on their leaders. But it all subsided after some time when the Chair reminded the Opposition that it was a private members’ day and they had many resolutions on the agenda. The opposition members returned to their seats to get their resolutions passed which the Treasury let go without creating any hindrances.

In its first resolution, Muhammad Sabtain Khan demanded that the government compensate wheat, maize and fodder farmers who had suffered because of downpour. The resolution was carried without any opposition.

Mahmoodur Rasheed wanted the government to reconstitute the Pakistan Cricket Board on merit. No one opposed it and it was carried unanimously. So was Sadia Sohail Rana’s resolution calling for action against unlicensed medical stores. Najma Afzal Khan wanted mass communication departments of all universities in the province to start research programme for finding ways to project soft image of the country abroad.

Shaikh Allauddin was allowed by the chair to present his resolution in zero hour – a procedural term for extended time after completion of the agenda. He claimed that the police were raiding banks and exchange companies in the name of security, arresting managers and closing companies and banks – something they cannot do under the law as only the State Bank of Pakistan can do. “This financial sector is serving Pakistan exceptionally and also paying billions of rupees in taxes. Even if a bank has to close services for few minutes, it has to seek permission from the State Bank. But police officials walk in, take managers away and force closure in the name of security. If the sector goes on strike even for an hour, the financial chaos would be too colossal to be handled by any government,” he warned.

Rana Sanaullah said there was counter-argument as well; these banks and exchange companies are supposed to maintain security and keep alarm system and CCTV cameras up and running. “If they don’t, the police are bound to interfere under an ordinance promulgated by the provincial government. However, law enforcers certainly cannot harass anyone in the name of security,” he conceded and invited stakeholders of the sector to join him in next meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security and thrash the matter out.

This wrapped up the agenda for the day in almost two hours and the house was adjourned for 10am Wednesday morning.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2016

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