Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on Dawn.com.

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience

.

Members of the opposition on Thursday briefly boycotted the National Assembly session and staged a walkout over the use of objectionable language by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry.

They, however, returned to the session after the minister agreed to apologise for calling members of the opposition "robbers and thieves".

It all started when, at the outset of the session, PPP's Dr Nafeesa Shah moved a privilege motion against the information minister for accusing former opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah of recruiting 800 people in the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) in just three hours

She read out a tweet by Chaudhry and asked NA Speaker Asad Qaiser to refer the matter to the privileges committee.

Khursheed Shah said the matter should be referred to the committee and the minister should be asked to prove the allegation.

Responding to a tweet by Nafeesa Shah regarding the now-withdrawn proposal to lease the Radio Pakistan building in Islamabad, Chaudhry earlier on Thursday had accused PPP leaders of malpractice.

"PPP destroyed all institutions including PBC by filling its own cronies, in three days Khursheed Shah filled 800 people only in Radio! costing 7 crore Rs additional burden, Govt is drowning 5 B Rs every year only on Radio thanks to PPP visionless policy," he wrote.

Responding to criticism from the PPP leaders, Chaudhry not only justified his statement, but doubled down and termed the previous government "thieves and robbers".

The minister in his speech said the past rulers had used "looted money" like "robbers do at a mujra [a form of dance generally catering to entertain a male audience and its contemporary form is regarded as lewd and vulgar]."

The using of the term "mujra" incited the opposition protest. The speaker expunged it from the official proceedings but the opposition demanded an apology from the minister.

Khursheed Shah termed the word derogatory and unbecoming of a parliamentarian.

Opposition members then staged a walkout, raising slogans of "lota! lota!" [turncoat] against the information minister.

Chaudhry, however, maintained that he had not uttered any objectionable word. Despite warnings from the speaker against using "unparliamentary language", he said if he could not call "a robber a robber" and "a thief a thief", then what term should he use.

The minister also justified his tweet, saying Khursheed Shah headed a committee that had regularised 800 employees of Radio Pakistan in a matter of hours.

He alleged that the past governments had destroyed each and every institution of the country, including PTV, PBC, PIA and Pakistan Steel Mills by recruiting their cronies and sycophants.

Without naming whom he was referring to, he said a taxi driver was called back to the country from New York and made director general of the PBC.

He further stated that PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan's brother and cousin were working abroad on key positions in PIA.

Chaudhry said the PBC was facing a loss of over Rs10 million and it could face closure in four years if things were not improved.

Opposition returns

Chaudhry, however, later apologised for his invective, saying he was ready to withdraw his words "in respect of the parliament".

The issue was settled when some government members went to the parliament's lobby to bring back opposition lawmakers.

Chaudhry also apologised personally to Khursheed Shah.

Led by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif, opposition members subsequently returned to the House.