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ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday presented a scene of street squabble with lawmakers from the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz exchanging curses, after the former justified their party chairman Imran Khan’s act of cursing parliament while reacting to the passage of the resolution against their leader in the house.

The PTI lawmakers, led by MNA from Kohat Shehryar Afridi, also laid siege to the speaker’s podium for a brief period after Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi expunged some objectionable remarks about parliament and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from Mr Afridi’s speech and issued a ruling that the house should do legislation to punish those who committed contempt of the assembly.

“I give a ruling: the nation should curse those who curse this parliament. Do legislation for awarding punishment to those who curse and ridicule parliament. The person who curses parliament will never be acceptable to us,” the deputy chairman ruled amid sloganeering from both sides of the aisle.

Mr Abbasi regretted that the PTI members had not learnt anything in four years. He even suggested that there should be a law that bans a political party for insulting parliament. The PTI members gathered in front of the dais of the speaker and asked Mr Abbasi to withdraw his ruling, terming it a “political statement”.

Legislation sought to punish those committing contempt of parliament

In an unusual turn of events, the National Assembly had last week adopted a resolution slamming Imran Khan and Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmad for their diatribe against parliament at a public meeting organised by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek in Lahore on Jan 17.

But hours after the passage of the resolution, a defiant PTI chief brushed aside the criticism and doubled down on his remarks, saying he didn’t care if the assembly passed a hundred resolutions against him.

The PTI members, who had disrupted the assembly proceedings on Monday by pointing out lack of quorum when they were refused the floor by the speaker, were provided full opportunity by the deputy speaker on Tuesday to speak out their hearts.

Shehryar Afridi and Amir Dogar from Multan took the responsibility of defending their party chief in the absence of their top brass from the house on the private member’s day. The PTI members, however, did not get any support from its other colleagues on the opposition benches as the legislators belonging to the PPP and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) also condemned Imran Khan’s act of “ridiculing” parliament.

Instead, PPP’s Sattar Bachani joined the PML-N lawmakers in cursing the PTI MNAs for their “uncalled for” behaviour.

PPP’s Shazia Marri, however, criticised both the PML-N and the PTI for the prevailing tense political environment in the country.

MQM’s Sajid Ahmed asked the PTI members to stop receiving salaries and submit their resignations if they justified the act of their leader.

It was PML-N’s Raza Hayat Harraj who brought some sobriety to the house proceedings when in an scholarly manner he advised both the PTI and his own party members to stop using the word “curse [laanat]” for parliament and for each other as by doing so, they were in fact doing a disservice to parliament and democracy.

The MNA from Khanewal was of the opinion that even discussing such an issue on the floor of the house was an “insult” to parliament. Mr Harraj advised the PTI chairman to admit in an honourable way that he had used a wrong word for parliament in a flow while delivering a fiery speech at the public meeting. He also suggested his party colleagues to forget what the PTI chairman had said about parliament.

Earlier, Shehryar Afridi alleged that it was former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who had insulted parliament by telling lies about his assets and money trail on the floor of the house. Amidst slogans of “shame, shame”, PTI’s Amir Dogar said the people could not respect a house whose members were busy in protecting a “money launderer” and a person who had looted the national wealth.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2018