PML-N refuses to discuss protests against Aasia’s acquittal with govt

Updated November 03, 2018

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Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan dissatisfied over pointing out of the quorum soon after the recitation from the Holy Quran.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan dissatisfied over pointing out of the quorum soon after the recitation from the Holy Quran.

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Friday declined to sit with the government to discuss the issue of countrywide demonstrations by workers and supporters of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) after the National Assembly’s session was adjourned due to a lack of quorum.

The main opposition party urged the government to discuss the issue of prevailing law and order situation, which emerged after the acquittal of Aasia Bibi by the Supreme Court in a blasphemy case, on the floor of the house and not in closed door meetings.

The house was adjourned till Monday when after recitation from the Holy Quran (at the start of the session) Agha Hassan of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal, an ally of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), pointed out the quorum.

Party leaders say matter will be discussed on the floor of the house and not in closed door meetings

Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri, who was presiding over the session, adjourned the session without any delay.

Interestingly, a Pakistan Peoples Party member had pointed out the quorum on Thursday soon after its beginning and the proceedings of the house remained suspended for half an hour. Later, the session resumed and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan expressed dissatisfaction over pointing out of the quorum soon after the recitation from the Holy Quran. “We welcome the gesture of the opposition but it has never been experienced in the past that the quorum pointed out soon after completion of the recitation from the holy book,” he said.

The opposition was of the view that the government intentionally pointed out the quorum so that opposition leaders could not criticise the rulers.

It is believed that the quorum issue has once again created a breach between the government and the opposition who had come on the same page on Thursday and held a meeting to devise a strategy to handle the fragile law and order situation in the country.

Democratic norms

Later, senior leaders of the PML-N met their party president and the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Shahbaz Sharif, in his chamber and decided that they would not sit with the government to discuss the issue of demonstrations.

Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the issue of demonstrations should be discussed in the assembly and a solution must be found with the support of the opposition. He claimed the government had tried to avoid parliament and intentionally created the issue of quorum.

“We were expecting that the government would talk about the prevailing situation in the country in the house as the people of the country are in trouble due to road blockades and disturbed rail and flight schedules. It is the need of the hour that the house should be taken into confidence,” he added.

The former prime minister said that no one from the government had any answer how the country could be protected from the bad impact of these demonstrations. “This is unfortunate that a democratic government is unable to give respect to democratic norms,” he added.

Another PML-N leader, Ahsan Iqbal, said in a statement that the opposition would not go for any negotiation with the government on the issue.

He said making the National Assembly ineffective in the prevailing situation reflected that the government was not sincere to handle the situation. “Therefore, we will not hold any negotiation with the government and now we will talk to the government on the floor of the house,” he added.

Former defence minister Khawaja Asif said that the tradition of sit-ins in the country was set by Prime Minister Imran Khan when he was in the opposition. “Now he (Imran Khan) was reaping what he sowed,” he added.

He said the PML-N government had faced similar situation in 2014, but it did not suspend the session of National Assembly for the sake of democracy.

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2018