ISLAMABAD, June 16: Opposition members in the National Assembly belonging to the MMA and the PML-N staged a protest walkout on Wednesday against what they termed derogatory remarks by a minority member on interest on bank loans.

Taking part in the budget debate, M.P. Bhindara, a minority MNA belonging to the PML, referred to a decree by an Al-Azhar University's scholar that bank interest was not un-Islamic.

He said without interest the country could not get foreign loans and could not achieve the desired progress. A pandemonium broke out in the house over his remarks as a number of MMA members, including Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, Liaquat Baloch and others, rose from their seats in protest and tried to respond to Mr Bhandara's observations.

However, they were not allowed to speak on a point of order which led to their walkout which was also joined by Mehmud Khan Achakzai and Imran Khan. The members belonging to the PPP Parliamentarians, however, did not take part in the walkout. Later, the opposition members were persuaded to by a team of ministers sent by Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain to return to the house.

During its talks with the opposition members to bring them back into the house, the government team accepted the right of the MMA to respond to the minority member's remarks and it was decided that Sahibzada Fazal Karim of PML-N and Maulana Shirani of MMA would make brief statements.

Sahibzada Fazal Karim said the Council of Islamic ideology had decreed that interest in all its forms was 'haram' in an Islamic society. Hence, he said, no member had the right to negate this settled issue.

Earlier, taking part in the budget debate, the opposition members accused the government of fudging poverty reduction figures and said surveys should be conducted to ascertain the conditions in which the farming community and people belonging to lower income group were living.

MMA's parliamentary leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed regretted that while the poverty-stricken people continued to be deprived of education, health and other amenities, the budget provided incentives to the elite class.

Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan lashed out at the finance minister for giving wrong figures on poverty reduction, saying people in the rural areas were living in deplorable conditions.

Syed Naveed Qamar of the PPP termed the agricultural package peanuts in view of the fast approaching WTO regime. He said the cost of production could not be brought down without reducing the costs of agricultural inputs.

He provoked Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali by saying that the tractors of over 100 horse power could possibly be used in the prime minister's constituency. Taking the floor on a point of self-explanation, the prime minister expressed his anger over mentioning of his name.

Updated Jun 17, 2004 12:00am

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