Orange line, law and order issues: Rashid sidetracked by Sana’s challenge

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LAHORE: Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah snubbed on Friday Opposition Leader Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed on both the law and order and the Orange Line Metro project amidst a heated ‘unscheduled’ debate in the Punjab Assembly session, held after a gap of some three months.

As the session began, the opposition leader on a point-of-order criticised the Punjab government for launching the train project without consulting the House. He said the project had rendered hundreds of people homeless besides damaging their businesses without any proper compensation.

He lambasted the government for damaging historical monuments on the Unesco Heritage List, saying the funds meant for south Punjab were being spent on this intra-city project. The government had taken a Rs200 billion loan for the Lahore-only project, which would be paid by the Punjab residents in 20 years.

Mr Sanaullah challenged the opposition leader to debate the issue for a whole day and he would prove the opposition.

Sanaullah said the Business Advisory Committee had in the presence of opposition leader decided that the opposition select a day to debate the subject but Mr Rasheed raised the issue just for point scoring.

Minister’s remarks triggered off chanting slogans from opposition and treasury benches. Eventually the opposition walked out.

Speaker Rana Iqbal sent ministers Tahir Khalil Sindhu and Sher Ali Khan to bring back the opposition.

After the Maghrib prayers break, Mr Sanaullah said the opposition had refused to fix a day for the train project debate.

Mr Rasheed responded that the government had insulted the House by launching the project and was now trying to escape the responsibility by asking them to discuss the issue. Now, he said, civil society and masses were protesting against the project and added that the government had also surrendered Rs10.8 billion.

Mr Sanaullah responded that the law allowed the government to plan and launch mega projects and challenged Mr Rasheed to debate on the basis of constitutional provisions. He said that he would also explain if the train project would destroy Lahore or the opposition.

The heated debate subsided when the speaker suspended rules of business to take up the resolution on the Bacha Khan University (BKU).

The resolution, unanimously adopted, condemned the terrorism activity at BKU and expressed grief over the death of 21 students, staff and a teacher. The resolution also lauded security institutions and expressed support to the Pakistan Army and other security institutions.

The opposition leader then raised the law and order situation and closure of schools as well as colleges in the province. He said some 43,000 policemen were performing VIPs protocol duties.

The law minister said the whole country was in a state of war and and the BKU tragedy had sent a way of concern across the country demanding stepping up security almost everywhere.

Consequently, he said, the Punjab government revisited the security measures. He also said that the severe cold and fog was also the reason to close institutions for a week because terrorists could also attack under the cover of fog. He said the Punjab government would re-open schools and colleges on Monday.

Besides taking security measures, he said, the chief minister also asked respective universities’ vice-chancellors to activate Islamic Studies departments’ professors to present counter narrative on terrorists’ Jihad thesis.

About VIPs security, the law minister said it the Punjab government was to provide proper security to VIPs and venues. He said retired Col Shuja Khanzada might have been alive if he was given high security protocol and added that the government faced scathing criticism for its failure to give proper security to its minister.The speaker adjourned the session until Monday without laying 13 ordinances before the house as a part of government business.