ISLAMABAD: The PTI continued to press the treasury benches on Thursday to divulge more about how the government planned to deal with the tensions between Riyadh and Tehran. It asked the government to arrange a briefing for parliamentarians with the visiting Saudi foreign minister.

In between, the PTI lawmakers put the government on the back foot by successfully pointing out quorum twice. On both occasions, the house was without the required minimum number of 86 MNAs.

It was Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who leads the PTI in the National Assembly, who called for more transparency regarding the country’s role in de-escalating tensions between two Muslim countries. Mr Qureshi, a former foreign minister, said that if the government was reluctant to share its stance publicly, at least the National Assembly Standing Comm­ittee on Foreign Affairs could be taken into confidence.

Ideally, Mr Qureshi said, “the government should invite Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir to a meeting of the NA Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs to learn his point of view over the emerging crisis.” This is too serious an issue not to be discussed at the parliamentary level, he said.

On the question of quorum, the PTI leader said it was the responsibility of the government to keep the house in order and it couldn’t blame the opposition for disrupting the session. Mr Qureshi reminded the government that despite being chaired by an opposition senator, proceedings of the upper house were run smoothly.

PTI chief whip Dr Shireen Mazari also asked the government to take the house into confidence over the discussion between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart in the aftermath of Pathankot terrorist attack. What the PM’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz had told the house made no sense, she said.

However, things came to a head when PkMAP lawmaker Abdul Qahar Khan Wadan protested against Minister of State Baleeghur Rehman when the latter failed to answer his query.

Mr Wadan was of the view that the Baloch and Pakhtuns in Balochistan were not issued national identity cards despite carrying genuine documents. While the MNA was still presenting his argument in a supplementary question, the deputy speaker moved on to the next question.

This incensed Mr Wadan, who protested and walked out of the house. He was joined by other members of the opposition. However, while leaving the house, Dr Mazari pointed out the lack of quorum. Since the house was short of members, proceedings were temporarily suspended.

This made Safron Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch furious. He accused the PTI leader of disrupting the session on purpose. In the heat of the moment, he also called on the PTI leadership to change Dr Mazari’s role in the National Assembly.

Separately, PML-N MNA from Lahore Sheikh Rohail Asghar and JUI-F lawmaker Maulana Ameer Zaman almost came to blows. But the situation was averted by the timely intervention of their colleagues.

It later emerged that the two men had exchanged some unsavoury remarks when Mr Asghar quipped that Mr Wadan was making much ado over the trivial issue of ID cards.

Later in the session, Rai Hassan Nawaz of the PTI again pointed out a lack of quorum. This time, Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi adjourned the session instead of ordering a roll call.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2016

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