Friday, October 15

Assembly waits for Secretary Health

Absence of bureaucrats from the Officers’ Gallery of the Punjab Assembly during the Question-Hours or general discussions is almost a routine now, but on Thursday, unlike previous occasions, even the Treasury was left defenceless and felt helpless in face of bitter diatribe launched by all members because of absent ‘public servants’ when the Health Department was on the agenda.
Because of this, the Question-Hour was started at 11.45am though the proceedings were initiated at 11.10am instead of scheduled 10 am. For almost 30 minutes, the House waited for the arrival of Secretary Health Department Fawad Hassan Fawad and his staff, while they reached at 12.10pm – late by over two hours.
PML-N’s Muhammad Yasin Sohl questioned Secretary’s absence, and requested Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan to take action against the officer, while suggesting that MPAs should go as a delegation for bringing Secretary to the House. PPP’s Syed Hassan Murtaza dished out advice to the Speaker asking the latter to discuss another subject “because neither minister in-charge Malik Nadeem Kamran nor administrative Secretary were present.” Another MPA proposed that the House should have asked for time from the Secretary prior to discussing the subject. N-Leagues Ijaz Ahmed Khan said the discussion of the Question-Hour was being delayed because of the absent Secretary Health. “It is violation of your (Speaker’s) ruling about officers’ attendance. Now action must be taken,” he recommended.
Upon this, the Speaker referred the matter to the Privilege Committee, and directed it to submit a report within one week.
After the Question-Hour was over, the officers and officials of the Department left the Assembly though the general discussion was about health. Again this irked the members, which made Deputy Speaker Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan to give a ruling that officers should be here during discussions, and strict action should be taken against them. “When we talk about the supremacy of the parliament, it also includes presence of officers in the Gallery. If we cannot protect honour of the House and take action, then what is the use of sitting in the Assembly?” he questioned, while directing Law Minister Rana Sanaullah to seek explanation from the Secretary and apprising the House about it on Friday (today). Rana Sana – earlier during this session had endorsed officers’ absence – was left with no choice except to agree with the Deputy Speaker.
Earlier, Parliamentary Secretary Health Dr Saeed Elahi was grilled by members from all political fronts since they all were dissatisfied with Department’s performance, and shared their awful experiences at badly-managed hospitals. He flip-flopped in replies regarding transfer and suspension of officers found guilty of misconduct, corruption in local purchase, dysfunctional equipments, number of posts vacant, medics given No Objection Certificates for working in foreign countries, discrepancies in pays of doctors posted at the RHCs, BHUs and DHQs. “I can prove malpractices, and if I fail, I will resign,” promised forward bloc member Sheikh Alauddin. Seeing wrong answer submitted by the Department regarding number of posted doctors at the Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital, the Speaker ordered enquiry to verify the veracity of facts. Though the Speaker tried to save Dr Elahi’s skin on numerous occasions – “Sir! You act as the best defence to Treasury” observed Sh Ala – however, the Parliamentary Secretary had a standard reply to all objections, “Substantiate your allegations with tangible proofs, we will take action.”

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