LAHORE: The Punjab government is fully ready to hold local government elections on the date that will be given by the Election Commission of Pakistan, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah assured the opposition in the Punjab Assembly on Monday.
The opposition parties in the House raised the issue of local government elections and release of development funds to treasury members only, on Monday. They warned they would call a separate assembly session outside the assembly chamber in protest if “discrimination” continues against them in their enrolment in district development committees and development funds.
The Press Gallery Committee boycotted the session to highlight different sensitive issues, like murders and life-threats to journalists in the province, especially Journalists’ Colony located in Harbanspura. The journalists held a protest demonstration and sit-in at the stairs of the assembly building. They demanded the government take serious notice of uncovered manholes in the colony, as one child has died after falling into one of them. They also demanded development work in the colony as per the commitment of Chief Minster Shahbaz Sharif.
The journalists also protested against the murder of a journalist, Abdullah Umar Khan Baloch, and threats to Gujranwala Press Club office-bearers from Federal Minister Khuram Dasgir over exposure of his illegal acts in the Gujranwala District. They demanded justice against the culprits. On this, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah assured the House that his government would provide justice to victims, and the Journalists Colony issue would also be solved soon.
On a point of order, opposition leader in the House, Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Sardar Shahabuddin of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Mian Aslam Iqbal of PTI raised the issue of local government elections and demanded the government hold the elections without any delay. They claimed that the government was using unfair tactics for the release of development funds to treasury members only. They said that opposition members’ names were not being included in the district development committees, terming this discrimination.
In reply, Rana Sanaullah said that his government was ready to hold the local government elections, but the court has halted them. He promised that whenever the Election Commission of Pakistan gives the new schedule and date of elections, the government would hold the elections. On the matter of development funds, he said membership of an opposition member in the district development committees was not a privilege or a parliamentary right, as these committees are specifically administrative in nature, therefore the opposition should hold a meeting with the chief minister if it wants funds or to have its members on the committees.
Reacting over this answer from the law minister, opposition member Mian Aslam Iqbal termed it highly discriminatory and warned the speaker that the opposition would call its separate assembly session outside the assembly chamber in protest if such attitude of the government towards them continues. The speaker advised the government that in the matter of development funds, no one constituency should be ignored.
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