CM supports MPs’ onslaught on media
By Amjad Mahmood
LAHORE: Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Thursday supported the MPAs’ onslaught on the media they had launched the other day in the house accusing it of indulging in character assassination of elected representatives in the name of fake degrees.
“Most of the points raised by the MPAs are genuine,Â” the chief minister said. Stressing the need for a code of ethics for the media persons, he, however, said that the journalists’ contribution in the restoration of democracy could not be ignored. Narrating one of his grievances against the media concerning the Sasti Roti Scheme, he urged that a house committee be formed to jointly sit with (representatives of) journalists and decide a code of ethics.
Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal ignored the call from the leader of the house for forming such a body as both treasury and opposition benches also showed no interest for it.
Shahbaz’s initiative is being seen by senior journalists as a ‘damage control measure’ and papering over what transpired in the house on Wednesday as, sources said, the chair had overlooked the rules and allowed the members to vent out their ‘uncensored’ anger through Points of Order for full three hours only after receiving a message from the chief minister’s chambers to the effect.
The chief minister, reportedly annoyed at rude questioning by some TV reporters on security issue, had watched the MPAs’ offensive for an hour while sitting in his chambers and then joined the house proceedings for around half-an-hour but without interrupting and saying any word to pacify the august members, offering his tacit support to what was being uttered.
The speaker, who had been strictly implementing the rules on points of order a day ago reminding each and every member seeking floor to speak his/her mind that official agenda had the priority, was lax on Wednesday as the house proceedings were adjourned for Thursday without taking up any government business.
The chair neither felt the need for expunging the remarks, some of them though appeared very offensive, from record nor urged the members to take a proper course by bringing a privilege motion against the media organisation(s) that they thought had indulged in slander.
The chair was rather irritated on finding a sole ‘sympathiser’ of the media in the person of opposition leader Chaudhry Zaheeruddin while on the other hand it extended twice time of the house to provide opportunity to every MPA who wished to speak against the journalists’ community.
On Thursday too, proceedings of the house started one hour and 45 minutes late as usual, although the speaker had reached his chambers much before its scheduled time of 10am.
He remained confined to his chambers waiting for the arrival of sufficient number of MPAs so that the treasury did not face the quorum problem, although the issue is concerning with the government and not with the chair. But the effort backfired.
As delayed start meant delayed end, most of the members, failing to withstand hunger, left the assembly building before the proceedings were officially adjourned. The treasury had to face embarrassment on Thursday again when it failed to get passed even a single piece of legislation out of four bills on the agenda as the house lacked quorum and adjournment for today (Friday) ensued.
Earlier, during question hour, parliamentary secretary for local government Razzaq Dhillon answered the members’ queries as the office of the minister is lying vacant after a recent cabinet reshuffle in which the department was withdrawn from Dost Muhammad Khan Khosa who was given commerce and industry department instead.
Dhillon was so poorly prepared for the session that he did not even know if his department’s secretary was sitting in the officials’ gallery, a standing order of the speaker for every secretary when questions regarding his/her department are taken up in the house.
As MPAs complained that answers to almost each and every query were either wrong or incomplete, Dhillon promised to take strict action against the official concerned, meaning he even did not know that under rules the authority of a parliamentary secretary did not go beyond the floor of the house, a fact PML-Q’s Dr Samia Amjad could not help pointing out there.
Faux pas committed by the parliamentary secretary at last irritated the chair, being held by deputy speaker Rana Mashhud at that time, which directed Dhillon to submit a report to the house on Friday (today) after consulting officials of the Lahore city district government as to how cattle evicted by the authorities concerned were brought back to the municipal bounds in the name of honouring a court’s stay order.