LAHORE  - The Punjab Assembly on Tuesday passed a bill prohibiting the private business of usury across the province.

The legislation envisages severe punishments for those engaged in the private business of loansharking after their crime is proven. Khadija Umer, a PML-Q MPA, presented the ‘Punjab Prohibition of Interest on Private Loan Bill, 2022 as a private member.

According to one of the provisions of the bill, “No money lender either individually or in group of persons shall lend money for any moveable or immovable good or in kind or any other purpose or advance loan to any person for the purpose of receiving interest thereon nor shall carry on an interest-based transaction in the province”.

The new law also prescribes punishment for the offenders that may extend to ten years but shall not be less than three years besides a fine not exceeding one million rupees.

The punishment for abetment in the crime will be the same as for the main culprit. “Whosoever abets or assists the moneylender in lending money for interest shall be liable to the same punishment”.

There will also be a punishment for molestation of a borrower not exceeding five years along with fine amounting to 500,000 rupees. A justice of peace to be appointed by the government shall order the police for registration of cases against the offenders.

In the statement of objects and reasons, it has been stated that the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah have explicitly and unequivocally prohibited charging interest on loans. In his address to assembly members, Punjab Chief Minister Ch Parvez Elahi said that a private bill has been passed to ban the private business of usury throughout Punjab.

“The business of usury is a curse that the Messenger of Allah Almighty (PBUH) also disliked and prohibited. I pay tributes to the house, the government and especially Imran Khan from the depths of my heart. I also thank the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court for starting the process of monitoring religious education; because, under his direction, the civil judges are monitoring the provision of religious education in the respective schools”, the chief minister averred. He said the students in the schools will be provided with Quranic sipaaras free of cost. “The education will now be given free up to BA along with textbooks. Work has been started regarding religion in grammar schools and credit and blessings for the decision of religious education will be showered at all times”, he told the house..

Parvez Elahi said that the government desired to save the new generation from immorality by giving religious education. “The children who get religious education will be an invincible generation”, he said.

He also said that emergency upgrades and free medicines will be given in hospitals too. “In the past, commissions were fixed instead of the recruitment of doctors and the supply of medicines. The government is tripling the salary of emergency doctors and the ban on recruitment will also be lifted from next week”, he disclosed, adding that N-League sat on jobs like snakes. “In the past, blind people were beaten with sticks but this government invited them home, offered tea to them and asked for forgiveness”. He said the allowance for the blind had been restored and increased to Rs 10,000. The teachers’ salaries will also be increased. Not only would the government start a teachers’ training program for the blind but their number will also be increased, he said.

Parvez Elahi said that the Assembly members will be given enough funds for development and jobs will also be created. “The registry fee is going to be fixed at one per cent. We are doing the work of religion with good intentions and money will never be less for tis noble cause. I left Rs100 billion cash in the previous tenure while Shehbaz Sharif left Punjab in debt of Rs 1000 billion”. He said the government will take legal action and they will not escape from the grip of the law. “They [PML-N leaders] are dividing the society, the province and the nation. These people consider themselves to be the great Mughals but should know that only the singers of Mughal-e-Azam are left”.

He lamented that Muslims were being persecuted in Kashmir, Palestine, Syria and India.

Also, the Punjab Assembly on Tuesday passed the members’ privilege bill in its original form after the Punjab governor did not assent the earlier one sent to him last month. This bill will automatically become a law after 15 days irrespective of whether or not the governor gives his assent.

New generation to be given religious education