NA speaker adjourns session after opposition protest over Durrani's arrest

Updated Feb 21 2019

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The veteran PPP leader pointed out that although there are many leaders facing references, it was only the Sindh Assembly speaker who was "arrested in a humiliating way". ─ DawnNewsTV
The veteran PPP leader pointed out that although there are many leaders facing references, it was only the Sindh Assembly speaker who was "arrested in a humiliating way". ─ DawnNewsTV

The National Assembly session on Thursday was abruptly adjourned after opposition members protesting the arrest of Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani raised a ruckus in the House to prevent former speaker Fehmida Mirza from addressing the assembly.

As the session began, senior PPP leader Syed Khursheed Shah criticised yesterday's arrest of Durrani by the National Accountability Bureau and warned that the party would protest the 'humiliation' of the speaker.

Shah took to the floor of the house to deliver a fiery speech to condemn the treatment meted out to the Sindh Assembly speaker. "He was dragged and forcefully shoved into a vehicle," Shah said, calling the move "condemnable, shameful and insult of this Parliament".

The veteran PPP leader pointed out that although there are many leaders facing references, it was only the Sindh Assembly speaker who was "arrested in a humiliating way".

"If the custodian of the House himself is not safe, how can he protect the members?" questioned Shah, who also wondered "what message the people of Sindh are being given".

Shah warned that "we will protest" over the move. "We will come out onto the streets to run a movement to strengthen institutions and for the respect of politicians," he thundered.

The MNA asked NA Speaker Asad Qaiser to also protest the treatment of Durrani by NAB officials "as it can happen with him as well".

Qaiser made it clear that he was not facing any case or reference, and stated that he is running the house in a non-partisan manner, to which Shah responded that Qaiser should keep in mind that 'fabricated' cases against him could surface anytime.

He also lashed out at the speaker for not issuing the production order for PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique and alleged that Qaiser was not doing so "under pressure and on the dictation of someone".

The PPP leader also criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan for not inviting members of the opposition to official engagements during the Saudi crown prince's visit.

'Why didn't PPP, PML-N amend 'objectionable' laws?'

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader and Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood responded to Shah's criticisms amid a noisy protest by opposition members, who began chanting slogans in the house.

He questioned why the PPP and PML-N did not, during their 10 years in power, amend the NAB laws if they had objections to them.

"The criticism is levelled against an institution that is not a part of this Parliament and it shouldn't be. It was made by Gen Musharraf. After that, in 2008, the PPP was in government and 2013 onwards, the PML-N was in power and they didn't change even a full stop in NAB's law during the 10 years they were in power," he said.

"When the NAB chairman was appointed, then prime minister Nawaz Sharif contacted then leader of the opposition, Khursheed Shah. They appointed the incumbent chairman," Mahmood explained.

"NAB doesn't take directions from the prime minister or the government, yet they direct their criticism towards us," he stated. "I am not here to criticise NAB and it is not my mandate. Our senior minister was also arrested and we are upset about it too, just like you are. But what can we do? It is not our jurisdiction," Mahmood told his colleagues.

"Khursheed Shah is using Parliament as a shield. I am glad you're calling this a black law, but why didn't you remember it when you were in government? You can pass the 18th Amendment, but you can't amend this law?" he asked.

"No one should use democracy and parliament as a shield to protect corruption," he stated, adding that the opposition should have brought up the Pulwama attack and Pakistan instead of talking about protection of the corrupt.

Qaiser adjourns NA after opposition ruckus

Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Fehmida Mirza, a PPP dissenter and now a key member of the Grand Democratic Alliance, was given the floor by the NA speaker.

However, opposition members who were already protesting and raising slogans against the treatment of Durrani, gathered in front of Qaiser's dais when he gave Mirza the floor and raised a ruckus.

Mirza, who attempted to address the House "as a former speaker", was not given a chance to speak as opposition members protested loudly.

Due to the strong protest by the opposition, the speaker abruptly adjourned the sitting until 11am on Friday.

Earlier, the House had, through a motion, allowed the speaker to constitute the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir.