LAHORE – The Punjab Assembly, on the first day of its 39th session, witnessed on Monday boisterous scenes from the Opposition over the appointment of Khizar Hayat Hiraj as special assistant to the chief minister on education.

The opposition made hue and cry over the appointment of an ‘uneducated’ (under matric) person as special assistant to the chief minister on education, saying the move is tantamount to ruining the sector.

The treasury, however, made little attempt to defend the appointment and confined itself to merely shouting and making noises without putting up anything substantive to counter the opposition despite the presence of many of the ministers. Even treasury women, trying to justify the appointment, failed to tell the house exactly what they wanted to say.

The house also offered fateha for the martyrs of Gujrat and Rasool Park, for those who died in hospitals during the young doctors’ strike, and for the father of MPA Naeem Khan.

At the outset of the session, which started one hour and 50 minutes beyond the scheduled time with Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan in the Chair, the opposition jumped to take the house on a point of order since it was prepared beforehand to raise the issue of Hiraj’s appointment. Leader of the Opposition Raja Riaz criticised the appointment in question. This agitated the treasury to retort him with slogans and noises.

“Are you not competent enough to hold this office? Why the chief minister had to appoint an ‘uneducated’ person?” Riaz posed a query to the treasury members.

Rana Arshad from the treasury tried to hush the opposition tirade, saying it is obsessed with Shahbaz Sharif-phobia; as such the opposition was venting venom against his appointee. He said the chief minister was doing a great service to the poor besides leading the province to progress and development.

Following this, the house witnessed a rowdy scene wherein call from the speaker for maintaining order fell on deaf ears of the parliamentarians. The focus of the house was shifted to other side when Raja Riaz passed certain remarks against treasury MPA Dr Ghazala, who was provoked to demand an apology.

Amid this, the speaker started the question hour relating to the Prisons Department. Replying to a question asked by Khadija Umar of the PML-Q about the Gujrat jail, Prisons Minister Iqbal Chunnar told the house that 14 new jails were being constructed in the province and the number of barracks in the Gujrat jail was being increased.

Answering a question on the Okara jail, the house was informed that 61 per cent of its construction had been completed, while it would be operative latest by the start of next year.

Answering a question from Deeba Mirza, the minister promised to recruit a lady doctor for treatment of female prisoners in the Sialkot jail. The questioner was surprised that over the past six years no lady doctor had been appointed to treat women in jails. Dr Samia Amjad of the opposition offered her services, but no one replied.

When the minister informed the house that 12 prisoners were locked up in Kot Lakhpat Jail only because no one provided surety for them, Ehsanul Haq Nolathia of the PPP said even an SHO could have done that. The minister told the house that this was not the case since Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has released 3,000 people facing minor offences by providing surety for them.