In a first, Punjab Assembly holds session in hotel to prevent virus spread

Members of the provincial assembly of Punjab prepare for the first-ever session of the House outside the historical assembly building at a local hotel in Lahore on June 5, 2020. (Photo courtesy: social media)
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Updated 06 June 2020

In a first, Punjab Assembly holds session in hotel to prevent virus spread

  • The assembly speaker says social distancing was not possible in the small chamber of the building
  • The assembly building was constructed in 1937 for 140 members

LAHORE: For the first time in history, the provincial assembly of Pakistan’s most densely populated province of Punjab held a session out of its historic building on Friday, choosing a local hotel for the purpose to ensure social distancing among its members amid growing coronavirus infections.
The assembly building was constructed in 1937 and has a small chamber to accommodate all lawmakers. Its foundation stone was laid in 1935 and it was inaugurated in November 1937 by Sardar Jogendra Singh who served as the agriculture minister back in the day.
The building was originally constructed to cater to the needs of 140 members of the united province of Punjab. After the division of the region into two separate countries in August 1947, the structure was continued to be used for the sessions of the Punjab provincial assembly. Later, it also catered to the needs to the West Pakistan assembly.
After 2002, the number of Punjab Assembly members was raised to 371. The construction of a new assembly building with the capacity of 500 legislators was initiated in 2005 by the former chief minister of the province, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, but the idea has not materialized until now, even though the construction project was scheduled to be implemented in two years.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the whole world and the situation requires social distancing to save people from the disease,” Elahi, who is now the assembly’s speaker, said in his opening remarks at the beginning of the session. “It was not possible to maintain that distance in the assembly building due to insufficient space. We were, therefore, forced to change the venue of the meeting to this place.”
The session began Friday afternoon and was attended by a large number of politicians on both sides of the political divide. Some members criticized Federal Minister for Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain during the debate since he undermined the idea of a physical session while advocating a virtual meeting.
“Holding the assembly session is a constitutional requirement and we can only deplore the thoughts of those who insist on calling virtual meetings,” leader of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz said in his comments.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) legislators raised the issue of farmers during the session, accusing the government of “snatching wheat” from the growers against their will.
“The government is harassing the farmers, snatching their wheat on cheaper rates than they are likely to get in open market. Locust swarm has already ruined the produce. Now the government is adding to the miseries of farmers,” PPP leader Hasan Murtaza said.
Before the session began, leaders of various political factions in the House held a meeting at the speaker’s chamber and reviewed the COVID-19 situation.
Special precautionary measures were also taken to prevent the spread of the virus as a disinfection gate was installed at the entry point and assembly members were requested to wear masks and gloves.


Pakistan must be ready from word 'go' against England, says coach Misbah

Updated 03 August 2020

Pakistan must be ready from word 'go' against England, says coach Misbah

  • England return to Old Trafford for first Test in another three-match series against Pakistan starting Wednesday
  • England are notoriously sluggish starters and have lost the opener in eight of their past 10 Test series

LONDON: Pakistan coach Misbah-ul-Haq has urged his side to get off to a flying start in their Test series with England, saying they must be at their best “right from the word ‘go’.”
England are notoriously sluggish starters and have lost the opener in eight of their past 10 Test series, including a recent 2-1 home success against the West Indies that marked international cricket’s return from the coronavirus lockdown.
They now return to Old Trafford, the scene of their two victories over Jason Holder’s men, for the first Test in another three-match series, against Pakistan, starting on Wednesday.
Misbah, suggesting England would have the advantage of momentum, told reporters on Monday: “We should be ready for an England team that have already had three matches of experience and they won their last two Test matches.
“We have to really come in this Test series right from the word ‘go’ at our best if we want to win a Test series or a Test match here.
“We are aware that England have a slight advantage but if we are alert and go 100 percent in the first Test match, that is the only way we can beat England, otherwise we will find ourselves in difficulty.”
Both England and Pakistan, who have played two intra-squad warm-up matches, boast talented pace attacks but Misbah, Pakistan’s captain when they drew a four-match series in England four years ago, believes his side also have the batsmen to give their bowlers enough runs to defend.
“It’s always tough with the Duke ball in England where the ball moves around off the seam and also in the air,” Misbah said.
“But this is where you can really fight and our batting looked in great shape in the last two series. We played in Pakistan but even in Australia we managed to score good runs in almost every innings.
“Shan Masood, Abid Ali scored centuries in previous series (at home to Bangladesh in February and at home to Sri Lanka in December). Conditions are different but still confidence plays a huge role in your mind when you’re coming from a series where you scored runs.
“Azhar (Ali) got a hundred (too, against Sri Lanka).
“In 2016 Asad Shafiq scored runs here, Babar Azam last time performed here in 2018 (when Pakistan drew a two-match series in England 1-1) and the way he’s batting at the moment, he’s confident and playing well.”
England’s attack, however, is set to feature James Anderson, closing in on 600 Test wickets, and Stuart Broad, who took his 500th in the third Test against the West Indies.
“It’s a challenge for us against an experienced and very good seam attack of England but I think we’ve got potential,” said Misbah.
“Mentally at the moment the guys are in good shape because they are coming from good performances.
“When you are confident mentally and in good shape, then you always can deliver on the field.”