ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the National Assembly launched an all-out attack against Speaker Ayaz Sadiq over what they termed his “blatant partisanship” in handling the references seeking the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his arch-rival Imran Khan.
Protesting the way Mr Sadiq discharged his duty as the custodian of the house, both main opposition parties — the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) — staged token walkouts. Meanwhile, the outspoken independent MNA from Muzaffargarh, Jamshed Dasti, also lashed out at the speaker for “undermining the dignity of his office by targeting the PTI chief”.
Of the eight references filed with the speaker — four against PM Sharif, two against Imran Khan and one each against Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Jahangir Tareen — only those against the two PTI leaders were forwarded to the ECP for action.
But according to the speaker, the documentary evidence attached with the rest of the disqualification references did not add up. However, he mentioned that even those had been forwarded to the ECP for their information.
PTI, PPP stage walkouts; Ayaz Sadiq says only two references came with ‘actionable evidence’
Soon after the end of the mandatory Question Hour, PTI legislators sought a point of order to highlight the speaker’s action over the disqualification references. However, Mr Sadiq refused to entertain them and proceeded with the day’s agenda. At this, the opposition benches, led by PTI lawmakers, began thumping their desks in a bid to disrupt proceedings.
This prompted an intervention by Leader of the Opposition Syed Khurshid Shah, who tried to persuade the speaker to let the PTI members speak, but Mr Sadiq was unmoved. When he refused to budge, the entire opposition bench staged a token walkout.
But after the break for Maghrib prayers, the speaker allowed PTI MNA Shafqat Mehmood to take the floor. Usually known for keeping a level-head, Mr Mehmood launched an uncharacteristically scathing attack on the speaker, accused him of toeing his party’s line while discharging his sacred duty as the custodian of the house.
“This house expected an impartial handling of the references submitted to your office against various lawmakers, including the prime minister. But to our sheer dismay, you [the speaker] let us all down,” he said, adding, “being custodian of this house, your decisions should have been above board, but alas! They are not!”
The PTI MNA didn’t stop there, and went on to blame the speaker for interpreting the rules and regulations of the house in a way that suited his party’s government.
“When there is clear evidence that shows the prime minister hadn’t declared the assets of his dependent daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif, how can you [speaker] clear him,” Mr Mehmood asked. “This is beneath the dignity of your office,” he concluded, and led his party in another token walkout.
Clarifying his position, the speaker then informed the house that he had taken the decision as per the documentary evidence attached with each reference. “The speaker’s office is neither an investigative agency nor a court. Using what little understanding I have of the subject, I have given my decision, and forwarded all eight references to the ECP for necessary action within the next 90 days.”
Later, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, in his brief but cutting remarks, criticised the PTI for its lack of respect for parliament and parliamentary traditions.
“The PTI and its leaders, day in and day out, have been ridiculing this house and its members with the worst possible accusations. They once resigned, but shamefully came back and took their seats,” he said, adding, that that it did not behove them to talk about parliamentary traditions.
Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2016