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PM Khan lashes out at opposition for 'pressure tactics' after NA walkouts

Updated January 15, 2019

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Prime Minister Imran Khan says opposition is seeking NRO and "evade accountability". — File photo
Prime Minister Imran Khan says opposition is seeking NRO and "evade accountability". — File photo

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday lashed out at the opposition for disrupting National Assembly proceedings by staging regular walkouts.

In a tweet — which came a day after the opposition walked out on the opening day of the National Assembly’s new session — the prime minister said that the repeated walkouts indicated that this was "the only function they (opposition) intend to perform".

He claimed that walkouts are used as "pressure tactics" to "seek an NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) and evade accountability for corruption in NAB (National Accountability Bureau) cases not initiated by PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf)".

In another tweet, the prime minister wondered if democracy for the opposition meant "immunity from corruption".

"It seems for them being elected is a license to plunder the country," he added.

A day earlier, PPP leader and former president Asif Ali Zardari had lashed out at NAB on the floor of the assembly, demanding that the chairman of the country’s top anti-corruption watchdog be summoned before parliament for his recent actions against parliamentarians.

The opposition members then staged a walkout as soon as Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda took the floor to respond to the speeches of Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif and Zardari.

So far, the current assembly has had 34 sittings, out of which the premier has attended six, including the one held for his election as premier. The opposition has staged several walkouts from the NA since the new government came to power, leaving Speaker Asad Qaiser struggling with the formation of house committees as the opposition flexes its muscles to give the ruling coalition a tough time on a number of issues, including the ongoing energy crisis, 'one-sided' accountability, the mini-budget and the recent increase in the prices of medicines.

The delay in the formation of over three dozen committees has badly affected the legislative work of parliament, and the National Assembly is functioning with only two committees, including the Public Accounts Committee, that was formed last month after a deadlock between the government and opposition over naming Shahbaz Sharif as chairman of the committee was broken.

'Baseless allegations': politicians react to prime minister's tweets

When asked about the premier's claims that opposition was seeking an NRO by staging repeated walkouts, Leader of Opposition Shahbaz Sharif said that "the allegations hurled by Imran Khan are so baseless that they don't merit a response".

PPP Chairman Bilawal, while talking to DawnNewsTV, pointed out that "Imran Khan does not even come to the parliament".

"What does he know about parliamentary proceedings?" he asked.

"The prime minister had promised that he will appear before the parliament and answer questions. But that promise turned out to be false as well," Bilawal regretted.

Referring to a proposal to grant an extension to military courts, the PPP chairman said that "it is hardly possible for his party to support the bill". He added that the government had not yet approached his party for consultation over the matter.

Prime Minister's aide Mirza Shahzad Akbar agreed with his leader and said that attending the National Assembly session was used as a "pretext" to escape accountability.

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, in a video message, claimed that "Imran Khan's tweets show that he is worried because of the incapability of his federal cabinet".

"The parliament whose cost Imran Khan is fretting about is the same that he remained absent from for five years," she said and added: "Mr Imran, parliament and government are not run over Twitter."

She also referred to the premier's low attendance in the assembly, saying that "the Pakistani public was about to give out an advertisement to look for their prime minister."

Aurangzeb accused Prime Minister Khan of "seeking an NRO for his ineptness by hurling allegations" and declared that the "opposition will not remain silent".

"You will not be granted an NRO over Aleema [Khanum's overseas properties' case] and foreign funding," the former information minister said, adding that the opposition will continue to question the poor performance of the government.