The Punjab Assembly budget session is likely to be undermined by the low MPA attendance because most members are reluctant to attend the trial because of the threat looming over COVID-19, it has been studied.
Most MPAs from other districts did not want to come to Lahore after the surge in COVID-19 cases was witnessed in the metropolitan area. Reports leaked from the health department where it was claimed that there were around 0.7 million positive cases of the deadly virus in Lahore, were a big problem for the MPA and therefore they were not comfortable attending assembly sessions.
The Punjab Assembly budget session was held for Friday 5 June at a local hotel adjacent to the council’s secretariat. Two large hotel halls have been declared as meeting rooms. It is not possible to maintain social distance in the official rooms of the Punjab Assembly due to limited seating capacity and therefore the Speaker decided to hold a session at the hotel to ensure SOP.
In conversations with these clerks, most of the MPAs said that they felt comfortable sitting in their constituencies that ensured social distance. The situation was worst in Lahore and we were therefore reluctant to attend the session, they said. It is important to mention here that two MPAs of the Punjab Assembly lost their lives in battle with COVID-19 while a large number of council secretariat staff were also affected by this virus recently. MPA Shaheen Raza from PTI and Shaukat Manzoor Cheema from PML-N lost their lives due to the deadly virus and both came from the Gujranwala district. In addition, MNA Munir Orakzai, a Sindh minister, Ghulam Murtaza and former Balochistan governor, had also died while fighting COVID-19.
“Yes, that is a big problem for us. “I will attend the first hearing on Friday while wearing a mask and gloves and will attend other equipment if the room situation suits me,” said MPA Muneeb ul Haq, from Okara. He believes that protecting our lives is our primary responsibility and if “I found the situation of the chamber rooms not suitable so I had to protect my life first,” he said.
Syed Hassan Murtaza, leader of the PPP parliament, also shared a similar view. Murtaza, an MPA from Chiniot, said that most MPAs did not have accommodation in Lahore and MPA hostels also did not have enough capacity to accommodate them. How can you expect attendance during a session under these circumstances, he asked.
Meanwhile, a business advisory committee meeting was also held on Wednesday through a video link chaired by Speaker Ch Pervaiz Elahi. Law Minister Raja Basharat, MPL-N MPA Samiullah Khan, Malik Nadeem Kamran, Hassan Murtaza from PPP, and independent MPA Maulana Muawia Azam were also present. Speaking with the Daily Times, MPA Samiullah Khan said that they would visit the hotel hall which had been declared a meeting room today. “We have been told by the Speaker that one hall will be the house while the other will be the lobby for the MPA,” he said. Because the hotel is just next to the assembly secretariat, the opposition leader can also sit in his room after attending sitting in the House of Representatives, he said, when asked about Hamza Shehbaz’s seating arrangements who will attend the session on temporary production orders from NAB detainees.
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