In the past, the NA secretariat always informed reporters beforehand about the speaker’s foreign visits with complete itinerary, however, this time the handout is even silent about which country the speaker had gone to. – File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Hours before the start of the National Assembly session on Monday, Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza left Karachi for Dubai on a private visit, lending credibility to media reports that she might skip the session to avoid facing possible criticism of her spouse, former Sindh minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza, for his outburst against the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

The media had been reporting for many days that the speaker had been planning to go on leave on the advice of her husband, but there had been no confirmation or denial from the authorities concerned.

However, journalists came to know about the speaker’s departure when the National Assembly secretariat issued a handout on Monday afternoon, announcing that “Faisal Karim Kundi, the deputy speaker National Assembly, shall act as Speaker with effect from September 12, 2011 vice Dr Fehmida Mirza, speaker NA, who has proceeded on visit abroad”.

In the past, the NA secretariat always informed reporters beforehand about the speaker’s foreign visits with complete itinerary. However, this time the handout is even silent about which country the speaker had gone to.

According to PPP sources, the speaker had gone to Dubai along with her husband and that she would return in a day or two. They claimed that the speaker was expected to return on Wednesday after prorogation of the National Assembly session for an indefinite period.

When contacted, some PPP leaders expressed ignorance about the speaker’s visit and a private news channel quoted unnamed sources as saying that she had gone to the UAE on the directives of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to seek assistance for flood-affected people of Badin, her home constituency.—Staff Reporter

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