Press Gallery: Toothless Lions
By Mubasher Bukhari
LAHORE: An Illinois graduate and a new-comer to the Punjab Assembly, Jehanzeb Imtiaz Gill of the PPP, left the entire ministerial cabinet speechless on Tuesday by speaking a biting truth about their powers.
Law Minister Basharat Raja and the PML-N’s Parliamentary Leader Rana Sanaullah Khan were busy in a war of words over the PPP and PML-N’s role in legislation. The law minister blamed the two-party opposition for not taking interest in legislation, saying none of their members moved amendments to bills in the current session. Mr Sanaullah countered his attack by saying that the PML-N and the PPP would not be part of so-called legislation that only required them to change comas and titles in rules. When he challenged the law minister to make some serious and substantial legislation, the law minister’s temper rose and he began to recount the ‘important legislation’ the Punjab Assembly passed over the last year. He pretended as if the Punjab government was free to legislate at will. At this juncture, the young Gill raised a point of order and said to the law minister, “Sir, you know your limitations. You could not hold elections to the Standing Committee for Local Bodies in seven months.”
Minister for Communications Chaudhry Zaheeruddin tried to placate Mr Gill but he too was struck by his tirade. “Chaudhry Sahib, you should best be quiet on this issue. Though you try to defend other ministers, the fact is that your own secretary does not follow your instructions and this is common knowledge,” said Gill and sat down, leaving the ministers speechless, which indicated there was some truth in Gill’s allegations.
It is also true that most of the CM’s cabinet members are in a euphoria about their position and its perks because they have it for the first time. A flagged car, an official residence in GOR and protocol is more than enough for them. But those who’ve had all this in the past seem to repent becoming ministers again.
An experienced parliamentarian who was made a minister in the last phase of cabinet formation said, “I did not want to get a ministry because I knew about our powers in the present circumstances. I accepted an unimportant portfolio under pressure of my colleagues and my voters.”
Another minister with an important portfolio said, “Three from my family are in the assemblies and all of us had decided not to accept a cabinet job but a PML big shot called me and pressed me to be a minister.” He said “At that time, I thought I would handle my ministry conscientiously and would not allow anybody to interfere. As soon as I assumed charge, I sensed somebody else was handling affairs,” said the minister, admitting that his only power was to transfer and post low-ranked officials.
Some facts about minister’s powers are on record. Secretary for Information and Culture and Youth Affairs Taimur Azmat Usman sends summaries directly to the chief minister without the consent of his minister. And the minister is helpless, despite his father, uncle and two other relatives being in the National Assembly.
A minister summed up the bad luck with the Punjab cabinet saying, “Actually, we are toothless lions.”