Ignoring governor’s objections, PA passes privileges bill

The Nation  |  Aug 04, 2021

LAHORE - The Punjab Assembly on Tuesday again unanimously passed the Provincial Assembly (Privileges) (Amendment) Bill 2021, not considering governor’s objections.  The PA had earlier passed the bill on June 29 but sent back by Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar raising the objections that it was against the spirit of Article 66(3) and Article 10-A of the Constitution.

On private members day, PML-Q legislator Sajid Bhatti re-tabled the bill after Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi suspended the rules to postpone the Question Hour. Legislators from across the political divide supported the bill as the chair commented that “no bureaucrat should now dare to breach privilege of the House as the bill has become a law.”

The bill had added a schedule to the original 1972 Act prescribing punishment to a bureaucrat for breach of privilege of the House, any of its committee or member and grants judicial powers to the speaker and/or the committee named by him or the House on the breach. It had also suggested similar penalties for journalists but the clauses were removed through an amendment on protests by the community. 

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Congratulating the legislators after passage of the piece of legislation, the chair said the cabinet was answerable to the House as per the Constitution but the bureaucracy was not unlike the National Assembly and Senate. The chair warned the bureaucrats that none should now dare to breach privilege of the House. He asked the legislators to tape the call if any deputy commissioner tried to threaten them on any issue. 

“The bureaucrats will fall in line once a couple of precedents are set,” he said while recalling that the police had forcibly entered the residence of a Gujranwala MPA without warrants though his mother was seriously ill and regretted that even the Privileges Committee chairman would complain that either no officer would appear in response to a privilege motion against him/her or would challenge the committee’s powers. Amid sloganeering, he said he would also see how development funds to the lawmakers are not issued. He urged the government to deliver now as much time has passed.  PPP’s Hassan Murtaza said that politicians would enact laws to facilitate working of the bureaucracy and the same would target the politicians. He said the country could not progress until and unless supremacy of the parliament is not accepted. PML-N’s Samiullah Khan accused the governor of sending back the bill on pressure from the bureaucracy. Later, the house also passed with a majority vote Qarshi University bill notwithstanding opposition by Law Minister Raja Basharat and Higher Education Minister Raja Yasir Hamayun Sarfaraz.  The session was later adjourned till Friday.

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