Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Punjab Assembly: Opposition insists on penalising Ch. Abdul Ghafoor

LAHORE, June 30: Opposition in the Punjab Assembly on Tuesday boycotted the session after the treasury did not entertain its request for a ‘strict’ action against Prisons Minister Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor for his conduct.
During Monday’s session, Ghafoor had thrown budget books at PML-Q’s Bushra Nawaz Gardezi for hoisting a placard inscribed with “CM Punjabi industrialist is traitor of Punjab.” Following the incident the opposition had walked out of the house.
Before the start of the session on Tuesday, Speaker Rana Iqbal, Deputy Speaker Rana Mashhood, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, Senior Minister Raja Riaz, Finance Minister Tanvir Ashraf Kaira and senior adviser to chief minister Zulifqar Khosa held talks with opposition leader Chaudhry Zaheeruddin, Moonis Elahi and Chaudhry Sher Ali over the issue.
The opposition members wanted removal of Mr Ghafoor from ministerial post, besides suspending him from the assembly membership for at least 15 days.
“Yes we agree to suspend Ghafoor but he will not be penalised alone. Bushra Gardezi will be handed down the same punishment,” a treasury member said.
“You can not compare Ghafoor’s conduct with Ms Gardezi’s. Same punishment can not be awarded for slapping and stabbing,” Moonis Elahi argued and insisted on awarding `exemplary’ punishment to the prisons minister who had been in news for his alleged manhandling of the Customs officials at the Lahore airport.
“Sparing Ghafoor this time too means the PML-N leadership is endorsing a conduct unbecoming to a minister,” the young Elahi said and vowed not to return to the assembly if the opposition’s ‘just’ demand was not met. “We will take to streets and launch a campaign against Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for ‘protecting’ his cabinet member for ‘assaulting a woman’,” he said.
The treasury also insisted on authorising the speaker for any action against Ghafoor or both Ghafoor and Bushra but the opposition did not agree. “We will protest and continue to boycott the assembly proceedings if the speaker suspended Ms Gardezi too,” Chaudhry Zaheeruddin said.
Raja Riaz ruled out ‘unilateral’ action against Chaudhry Ghafoor. “It is not fair to penalise Ghafoor alone in this case,” Riaz said and told this reporter that a treasury team was scheduled to have a meeting with the opposition on Wednesday before the start of the session. “I hope some consensus will be reached between us and the opposition will be back to the house,” the senior minister said.
The speaker is also considering a proposal to suspend the membership of a legislator for at least 15 days for bringing a placard to the house. Though the PML-Q has no objection over the proposal, but it wants the same for future.
During the Pervaiz Elahi tenure, PPP’s Azma Bokhari had brought a placard against the Ch. Pervaiz Elahi and the then ruling PML-Q’s Zeenat Khan had attempted to snatch the placard from her. “We had suspended the membership of Ms Khan for three days for the gesture,” a PML-Q leader said and advised the PML-N to follow suit.