Media comes under fire in Punjab assembly
By Ahmad Fraz Khan
LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly met perfunctorily on Friday almost two hours late and members took up their “personal grudges against the media and whiled away in trivialities by ignoring the pre-budget discussion”.
The level of interest of the members, especially the treasury, could be gauged from the fact that Law Minister Rana Sanaullah did not know the time of start of proceedings.
After the recitation from the Holy Quran, Makhdoom Ahmad Mahmood from Rahim Yar Khan stood to the complaint that the house had lost almost two of the four hours of proceedings because no one showed up in time. One hour was fixed for Question Hour and the other for pre-budget debate.
The law minister stood up to tell him that the house was only 45 minutes late as proceedings started at 10:40am. When reminded that the proceedings were supposed to start at 9am because of Friday, pat came the response: “Oh, I thought it was usual starting time of 10am.”
It is the law minister who runs the house in the absence of the chief minister and his ignorance of timings of proceedings makes one think that a lack of quorum is anything but a matter of concern.
As soon as the Question Hour ended, Khwaja Islam from Faisalabad, completely ignoring the time allocation for pre-budget discussion, rapped the media and defended the law minister and Prisons Minister Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor who were “lampooned by a private channel talk show”. He took a good 15 minutes to tell the house “how low the illiterate media stoops sometimes and how we (the house) need to remind it of its national duty of respecting the legislature.”
As soon as he sat down, Dost Muhammad Khosa picked the pieces right from where he had left and warned his colleagues: “Today it is the treasury, tomorrow it would be opposition or anybody else. The media needs to be knocked in line if it does not behave.”
The opposition, however, defended the media by saying that the programme being referred to was a “light comedy that satirises politicians.” It should not be taken too seriously to be discussed on the floor of the house, said Mohsin Leghari.
But it did not deter the law minister who took the floor to explain how a conspiracy was being hatched and how the media became a party. “What we are saying is an attack on the media independence, but how our complaints sometimes become part of conspiracy.”
The opposition again objected that the issues of the law minister (alleged corruption) and the prisons minister (personal conduct) were personal and had nothing to do with the house. The ministers could not be offered the floor for offering personal explanations.
The minister, undeterred, kept explaining his position and the opposition turned noisy enough to make him inaudible. The rumpus consumed the entire time allocated for pre-budget discussion.