ISLAMABAD: Just as the government grappled a crisis created by parliamentary resignations by the opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a minister provoked a boycott by all other opposition parties in the National Assembly on Thursday, paving the way for a key bill rushed through the house on the last day of its monsoon session.
Opposition leader Khursheed Ahmed Shah said they had nothing against the bill seeking to enhance the central bank’s autonomy but that it would not countenance a government disregard for parliament as apparent from empty ministerial benches and some objectionable taunts from Defence Production Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain.
The 31-clause State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill was listed to be piloted by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, but the job fell to the lot of the parliamentary secretary for his ministry because of the absence of the minister as of most other important cabinet members, apparently for consultations held by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the situation created by Wednesday’s resignations by MQM parliamentarians from both houses of parliament and the Sindh provincial assembly.
The opposition leader advised the government not to act in haste and try for the return of the MQM’s resigning members – 24 in the National Assembly, eight in the Senate and 51 in the Sindh assembly – back to their chambers by addressing their grievances of political victimisation.
But in a second speech later, as the only bill on the day’s agenda was taken up for immediate consideration, he lashed out at the government for the absence of senior ministers, which he said manifested their disregard of parliament.
“Has the government ever thought why situations arise when sometime the PTI goes out and sometime the MQM?” he said, also referring to a four-month boycott of the house last year by the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.
“This is because of the government’s non-serious attitude towards parliament that people go out of parliament and resort to street politics,” he said.
“This is wrong,” Minister Tanveer Hussain said, rejecting Mr Shah’s concerns instead of assuaging them and threw a rather daring challenge to him to compare the present situation of ministerial attendance with that of the previous PPP-led coalition government.
Mr Shah accepted the challenge, but found the minister’s response to be an offense to the opposition leader’s position. “If this is the way of the government there is no need for us to sit here,” he said before leading opposition lawmakers out of the house. —Raja Asghar
Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2015