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In rare assembly appearance, Imran votes for Fata bill

Updated May 25, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan leaves Parliament House after attending the National Assembly session on Thursday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan leaves Parliament House after attending the National Assembly session on Thursday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan made a rare appearance in the National Assembly on Thursday after almost two years and cast his vote in favour of the proposed merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Although Mr Khan hailed the government for the passage of historical constitutional amendment regarding the merger, his speech created a pandemonium in the house when he tried to justify his 2014 sit-in and Panama Papers leaks case against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Apparently Mr Khan attended the session as his own party had demanded the merger of Fata with KP, but some members of treasury benches questioned his presence in parliament which he had already declared ‘cursed’.

The PTI chief, who was sitting in the front row with party’s vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah, remained surrounded by his party’s lawmakers.

Soon after arriving in the house, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi went straight to Khursheed Shah and Imran Khan and shook hands with them.

Daniyal Aziz calls PTI chairman a ‘thief’ for evading taxes

Earlier, Privatisation Minister Daniyal Aziz took the floor and condemned the incident in which he was slapped by PTI leader Naeemul Haq during a TV talk show. He also called Imran Khan a ‘thief’ for allegedly evading taxes and hiding his offshore company Niazi Services.

The historic bill was passed in a smooth manner. Imran Khan then delivered a speech in which he touch on the sit-in, his demand for verification of results of four constituencies of the 2013 elections and moving the Supreme Court on the Panama leaks scandal.

Mr Khan began his speech by saying the PTI had staged the 2014 sit-in after parliament failed to listen to its grievances. “We did not get any response from the National Assembly and other institutions,” he said.

“After a year [of waiting for a response] we held the sit-in,” he said, explaining that “as a democrat” it was his right to stage protests and agitate for the people’s rights.

“And then there was Panama. Is asking for accountability something undesirable?” he asked amidst uproar before chiding the lawmakers for turning a blind eye.

“I am proud we brought a corrupt prime minister to justice for laundering money,” he said.

As the ruling party’s lawmakers continued to protest loudly, Mr Khan said at one point: “Have the courage to listen to me.”

“A member sitting here had once said to me: ‘koi sharm hoti hey, koi haya hoti hey’. I see that the same member is no longer here today,” he said, referring to former foreign minister Khawaja Asif who was recently disqualified by the Supreme Court.

He said standing against money laundering was the right thing to do. “”We are proud of our struggle,” he added.

During Mr Khan’s speech, Daniyal Aziz started criticising him, after which PML-N and PTI leaders exchanged harsh words.

Referring to Imran Khan’s speech, the prime minister said he did not want to divert attention from the landmark bill by talking about unrelated matters.

“Imran Khan should not have touched upon controversial matters today,” he said, adding: “Today, we [parliament] have proved that consensus can be formed [on issues of national importance].”

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2018