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Govt flays opposition leader’s ‘speech-and-boycott’ policy

Updated June 06, 2017

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Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah and his fellows have only been present in the parliament for speeches from their own camp. — File
Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah and his fellows have only been present in the parliament for speeches from their own camp. — File

ISLAMABAD: Government lawmakers on Monday lashed out at Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah for continuing a boycott of the National Assembly, despite having made six speeches during the ongoing budget session.

Members of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) also came down hard on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan for not attending house proceedings.

This was the sixth consecutive sitting since the presentation of the federal budget 2017-18 that opposition members – protesting the government’s refusal to telecast their speeches live on state-run PTV – had boycotted the entire sitting, providing the government ample opportunity to have its way in the house.

At the outset of the sitting, which commenced after a two-day recess, Mr Shah took advantage of his parliamentary privilege and announced a walkout from the house after delivering his speech.

PML-N leaders train their guns on Imran Khan’s poor attendance record in his party’s absence

In parliamentary tradition, both the opposition leader and the leader of the house are ceded the floor whenever they rise in their seat, a privilege Mr Shah often uses.

In his remarks, he criticised the government for its alleged policy of confrontation with the judiciary and talked about the budget measures announced by the government.

“The people and the media are watching this drama unfold; make a speech every day and then stage a walkout,” observed Rana Tanveer Hussain, federal minister for defence production, who was given the floor by Speaker Ayaz Sadiq to respond to Mr Shah’s speech as soon as the opposition walked out of the chamber.

The minister said that on one hand, Mr Shah talked about democracy and the sacrifices his party had made for this cause.

But on the other hand, he was bent upon damaging the democratic system, Mr Hussain claimed.

He took particular exception to Mr Shah’s threat that the Sindh could also stop supplying gas to Punjab if the people of smaller provinces were not provided electricity.

“No one can stop the gas supply. The people of Pakistan are standing with PML-N,” the minister thundered, adding that the people were closely observing the behaviour of opposition parties.

He also expressed surprise over Mr Shah’s language, saying that he was not expecting such a seasoned politician to “incite people to revolt”.

The minister said that the people of Pakistan remembered the five-year rule of the PPP quite well, when Islamabad became a market for transfers and postings.

He said that today, the opposition was crying over power outages when, under their tenure, citizens had to ensure up to 18 hours of power cuts.

The minister also took Mr Shah for task for claiming that it was the PPP that had saved the government from collapse during the 2014 sit-in. “You are still not clear. You say that you saved democracy and not the government. If you support democracy, then why do tout it as a favour to us?”

In an apparent reference to PPP chief Asif Zardari, the minister said that their leader had once spoken against an institution and then had to flee the country.

He also asked opposition members to come to the house and give their input on how to improve the budget and provide relief to the poor.

Turning his sights on the PTI, Mr Hussain said a certain party head never came to parliament and even didn’t bother to come to the house to listen to the budget speech.

Later, taking part in the budget debate, Mian Abdul Mannan from Faisalabad also criticised Mr Shah for insisting that his speech be telecast live. However, the PML-N MNA directed most of his energies towards attacking Imran Khan, accusing him of misappropriating money collected in the name of Zakat and charity.

“We do business and pay taxes. We do not loot charity and Zakat money,” he said.

Earlier, Khursheed Shah warned the government against taking any step that could lead to a confrontation with the judiciary.

“We are heading towards a collision [between institutions] and things can get out of control,” he warned, referring to the controversy that arose from erstwhile senator Nehal Hashmi’s remarks.

He said the way Hashmi had spoken to the media outside the Supreme Court proved that he was not alone and had the backing of the government.

“A senator cannot otherwise dare to hurl threats at senior judges and their children,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2017