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When the minister is away...

October 12, 2017

ISLAMABAD: With federal minister Ahsan Iqbal in the US, Wednesday was not a good day for the interior ministry in the National Assembly.

The division’s affairs seemed to be in disarray from the very outset of the session since no one was on hand to answer queries during Question Hour, in spite of the fact that it was their ‘rota day’ – a preordained date on which the bulk of the questions related to the ministry’s workings are to be answered on the floor of the house.

Even the generally-malleable Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi took exception to the absence of ministry officials, since neither the parliamentary secretary, interior secretary nor any of his subordinate officers had turned up.

He gave the officials 20 minutes to turn up, but to no avail. Instead, Talal Chaudhry, the recently sworn-in state minister for interior, rushed to house from a standing committee meeting to apologise for the parliamentary secretary’s absence.

“Mr Dhandla was the one who was briefed for today, but he was held up at the last minute due to an emergency,” the freshman minister explained.

When the deputy speaker grilled Mr Chaudhry on why the bulk of the questions addressed to the ministry had gone unanswered, the freshman minister had no satisfactory response.

Out of 34 questions that were supposed to be answered by the ministry on Wednesday, written replies were only received for eight.

But this was not the end of the ministry’s woes.

Towards the end of the session, the deputy speaker decided to take up a calling attention notice regarding “exploitation of poor street vendors by the employees of Capital Development Authority (CDA) in the name of surprise inspections of markets in Islamabad”.

Since both CADD Minister Tariq Fazal Chaudhry and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sheikh Aftab were not present, the deputy speaker asked who would respond to the notice moved by Shakila Luqman and Zeb Jaffar of the PML-N.

After Mr Aftab pointed out that CDA conducted operations under orders from the local magistrate, the onus of responding fell to Talal Chaudhry once again, who was forced to admit that he was not prepared to answer.

Not impressed by his response, the deputy speaker asked the state minister to come prepared at the next session.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2017