If opposition leader cannot come to parliament, neither can the prime minister: Khawaja Asif

25 Jan 2019

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PML-N lawmaker Khawaja Asif has warned that if govt creates an environment in which parliament cannot continue to function, opposition will respond in kind. — DawnNewsTV
PML-N lawmaker Khawaja Asif has warned that if govt creates an environment in which parliament cannot continue to function, opposition will respond in kind. — DawnNewsTV

As a war of words between the PML-N and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) continued on Friday, former minister Khawaja Asif warned the government against taking any drastic measures, threatening that "if the leader of the opposition is not allowed to come to the National Assembly, neither will the leader of the House."

Asif was referring to tweets by the Prime Minister's Special Assistant on Political Affairs, Naeemul Haque, who had warned Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif against targeting Prime Minister Imran Khan with 'personal' attacks while threatening that the PML-N leader would "spend more time in jail sulking" if his production orders were to be revoked.

Haque's threat had come after the National Assembly had erupted in general pandemonium on Wednesday, with insults and taunts thrown freely across the aisle soon after the prime minister arrived for the session.

The prime minister, who had last been seen in the assembly on Oct 3, had entered the house at the time when Sharif was lambasting the federal and the Punjab governments over the handling of the Sahiwal incident.

Speaking to the media outside the parliament today, Asif said that they [the PML-N] wished for the parliament to continue its job.

"Governments come and go, but the parliament should continue functioning [...] However, if this is the environment they want to create in the parliament, we are also ready for it. However, it is the government that will be held solely responsible for this."

"If the language they want to use is reflected in these tweets [...] they do not even respect the Speaker's office, nor the parliament. These same people used to use foul language against the parliament in the past and curse it [...] but if they plan to carry on the same behaviour now that they are in the government, it [the parliament] won't go on [much further]."

But though the veteran lawmaker was clear about the opposition not tolerating unparliamentary language, there was no mention or regret for the unbecoming remarks uttered by the opposition leader against Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on Wednesday.

"Imran Khan had himself stated in the past that the then Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif should resign and the then home minister Rana Sanaullah should be arrested [over the police's brutality in the Model Town incident]," Shahbaz Sharif had said on the floor. "Now according to his own words, first the prime minister should submit his resignation and then (Punjab Chief Minister) Usman Buzdar should resign," Sharif had demanded amid desk-thumping by the opposition members.

However, the opposition leader had overstepped while driving home his criticism of the incumbent chief executive of his former dominion, adding: "This chief minister cannot even respond to nature's call without the prime minister's permission."

He had also hit a nerve with the treasury benches by calling the premier "the selected prime minister".

Government responds

Minutes after Asif wrapped up his media talk, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry was on TV screens responding to the PML-N.

"I don't understand the opposition's behaviour in the National Assembly. On one hand, they say everyday that the prime minister does not come to the assembly; but once he does, it seems like the assembly turns into a bazaar."

"Personal insults are hurled [towards the prime minister] by the opposition, and then they say it is the government that does not respect parliament. The opposition needs to respect the prime minister first," he demanded.

Reminding the opposition of the government's concession in granting Shahbaz the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairmanship, Fawad said: "There was internal dissent in the party about the PAC chairmanship. I did not want Shahbaz to become the chairman, but Pervez Khattak and Shah Mahmood Qureshi wanted to be magnanimous and give it [the chair] to him, and so we did.

"He is being investigated currently and there are Rangers, police and ambulances outside for him. This is the sort of protocol even ministers don't even dream of," Fawad observed, turning the spotlight on the PML-N president's ongoing legal troubles.