ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly witnessed another scuffle between members of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) on Thursday.
But this time, the untoward incident occurred at the main entrance to the Parliament House, soon after Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi abruptly adjourned the proceedings.
Members of the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) also staged a walkout from the assembly to register their protest over alleged discrimination against the urban population of Sindh in the forthcoming census.
Eyewitnesses and footage of the incident showed PTI MNA Murad Saeed attempting to punch and slap PML-N MNA Mian Javed Latif while the latter was leaving the Parliament House.
Speaker forms committee to probe scuffle; MQM walks out of NA over census controversy
Mr Saeed was angry over remarks made by the PML-N lawmaker from Sheikhupura who had dubbed PTI chairman Imran Khan a “traitor”.
The two MNAs were earlier seen exchanging harsh words inside the main lobby of parliament, but were prevented from getting physical by other legislators, security personnel and journalists who were present there.
However, as soon as Mr Latif emerged from the building, the PTI MNA — who was lying in wait — pounced and attempted to punch the PML-N MNA in the face. Thankfully, he missed.
Taking notice of the incident, Speaker Ayaz Sadiq constituted a six-member committee under Ghous Bux Mehar of the PML-Functional to investigate the matter.
Other members of the committee are Sahibzada Tariqullah (Jamaat-i-Islami), Sheikh Salahuddin (MQM), Aijaz Jakhrani (Pakistan Peoples Party), Shahida Akhtar Ali (Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazal) and Ijazul Haq of the PML-Zia. The committee has been asked to submit its report to the speaker by March 16.
Mr Saeed, who is known for being hot-tempered, was also involved in an earlier brawl between PML-N and PTI lawmakers in January when members came to blows over the Panamagate issue.
At the time, a scuffle had broken out when Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was confronted by PTI MNAs Murad Saeed and Ali Mohammad Khan. Mr Abbasi had walked over to the opposition’s front bench to talk to PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Mr Saeed, who sat several rows behind, had jumped over seats in his bid to grab the minister.
On Thursday, both MNAs addressed the media separately and accused each other of initiating the violence. Mr Saeed claimed he had only reacted when the PML-N MNA started abusing him and Imran Khan in the lobby.
However, he had no reply when asked how he had reacted to the alleged abuse from the PML-N MNA. “I tried to stop him,” Mr Saeed remarked without elaborating. The CCTV footage, he said, would make it clear who had started the fight.
On the other hand, Mr Latif alleged that the PTI MNA had attacked him as he was coming out of Parliament House. He later said that Murad Saeed was like his children and that he had pardoned him.
The hullabaloo began when, responding to Mr Saeed’s criticism of the Punjab government over its alleged victimisation of Pakhtuns during the ongoing operation against terrorism, the PML-N MNA turned his guns towards Imran Khan and asked PTI members to teach their party head some “manners and wisdom”.
Mr Latif lashed out at the PTI chief over his controversial remarks about foreign cricket stars who had participated in the final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) tournament, played in Lahore on March 5.
Mr Latif equated Mr Khan’s remarks with those of Awami League chief Sheikh Mujeebur Rehman during the East Pakistan crisis, and compared him to MQM chief Altaf Hussain.
At this, nearly all PTI MNAs in the house stood up to protest the remarks, but sat back down when the deputy speaker assured them that he would provide them an opportunity to respond.
However, to the surprise of everyone, the deputy speaker adjourned the sitting until Friday morning as soon as the PML-N MNA was done speaking, prompting opposition members to raise anti-government slogans.
In his speech, Mr Saeed had criticised Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah over his reported interview to the BBC, where he had stated that the operation would be carried out in all “Pakhtun pockets” of the province.
The deputy speaker interrupted Mr Saeed several times, asking him not to raise a “controversial issue” but the haughty lawmaker from Swat only took Mr Abbasi to task for frequently interrupting him.
Members of the MQM staged a walkout from the assembly after challenging the figures presented by Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Rana Mohammad Afzal Khan in response to their calling-attention notice regarding the census in Sindh.
MQM lawmakers alleged that the number of housing blocks had been reduced in the province with the intention of showing the rural population as being greater than the urban population.
The issue had been raised by MNAs Sajid Ahmed, Abdul Waseem, Sheikh Salahuddin, Syed Waseem Hussain and Dr Fouzia Hameed.
Parliamentary Secretary Rana Afzal stated that the number of blocks in urban and rural areas had witnessed an increase of 18pc and 2pc, respectively.
He said the government had no intention of showing the urban population as less than the rural population, adding that while urban blocks had jumped from 18,451 to 21,766 in the 1998 census, rural blocks had been reduced from 18,882 to 17,209 in Sindh.
Later, talking to reporters outside the Parliament House, MQM parliamentary leader Dr Farooq Sattar claimed that there had been a 400pc increase in the number of blocks in rural areas against a mere 100pc increase in Karachi. He called for the satellite mapping of rural areas.
Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2017