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PML-N to seek explanation from MNAs skipping ‘vital’ NA session

Updated November 24, 2017

LAHORE: Apparently apprehending emergence of a forward bloc, the leadership of the ruling PML-N has decided to seek an explanation from the party MNAs who ‘missed’ the all-important National Assembly session last Tuesday without any ‘solid reason’.

Some two-dozen PML-N legislators, including two federal ministers, skipped the NA session at the time of crucial vote on the Nawaz Sharif-specific bill moved by the opposition, prompting the party leadership to take notice.

“We are trying to identify at the party level the exact reasons behind skipping of the Tuesday’s important NA session by some PML-N legislators. Those having genuine reasons like being out of the country or illness or unavoidable engagements will not be questioned (for their absence). However, those who skipped the session without any solid reason will be asked to explain their position,” PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif’s close aide Senator Pervaiz Rashid told Dawn on Thursday.

He said if it got established that some of them had skipped the session without any ‘genuine reason’ they would subsequently issued show-cause notices.

When asked was it a sign of an emerging forward bloc in the ruling party, Mr Rashid denied, claiming the party was united.

Although ousted premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz had congratulated the party leaders and workers after the bill was defeated by a big margin -- 163 votes against and 98 for it -- they were not happy with the number of ‘missing’ MNAs.

“Mr Sharif inquired about the missing MNAs from the key members of the party who failed to justify absence of some 15 or so legislators without any solid reason,” a PML-N insider said. He said some of the PML-N stalwarts were in favour of ignoring the matter at the time when the party was in need of every single MNA, but Mr Sharif wanted a clear identification of those “planning to change their loyalties”.

He further said: “It is the beginning of formation of a forward bloc as more will join this disgruntled group in the coming days, creating a dent in the Sharif’s party.”

A PML-N MNA who skipped the session wondered how could the party leadership think of initiating any action against the lawmakers skipping the session when they had not committed any illegality.

“We have not done any thing illegal or unconstitutional. The leadership can only serve us a notice for voting against the party line in the prime minister’s election or finance bill/budget,” he said, requesting anonymity.

Those who ‘missed’ the Tuesday’s NA session include two federal ministers -- Sikandar Bosan from Multan and Domki Dostain from Balochistan -- Sarzameen Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Raza Hayat Harraj (Khanewal), Raja Matloob (Jehlum), Jaffar Leghari (Rajanpur), Qasim Noon (Multan), Sultan Mahmood Hinjra and Basit Bokhari (Muzaffarghar), Mian Najeebuddin and Tahir Bashir Cheema (Bahawalpur), Alamdad Laleka and Tahir Bashir Cheema (Bahawalnagar), Khusro Bakhtiyar (Rahim Yar Khan), Chaudhry Bilal Virk (Nankana Sahib), Najaf Abbas Sial (Jhang), Rana Umar Nazeer (Gujranwala), Dr Nisar Jatt (Faisalabad), Nazir Khan from Fata, Khalid Magsi (Balochistan), and two women legislators on the reserved seats -- Arifa Khalid and Asma Mamdot.

Opposition Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan has alleged that Mr Sharif had offered ‘bribes’ worth Rs94bn to his party’s 163 MNAs who were present in Tuesday’s NA session.

The PPP’s bill had sought to amend Section 203 of the Elections Act 2017, which lifted the legal bar on a person against serving as an office-bearer of a political party, even if he or she was not qualified to be, or was disqualified from being, elected as a member of parliament under Article 63 of the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2017