ISLAMABAD: Members of the National Assembly, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, offer dua for the victims of a blast near Data Darbar in Lahore on Wednesday.—PPI
ISLAMABAD: Members of the National Assembly, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, offer dua for the victims of a blast near Data Darbar in Lahore on Wednesday.—PPI

ISLAMABAD: In what surprised many, the opposition missed the opportunity on Wednesday to record its protest against the recent petroleum price hike and major changes in the government’s economic team when Prime Minister Imran Khan made a rare appearance in the National Assembly.

The opposition members, who had disrupted the previous sitting over the recent petroleum price hike through a noisy protest, seemed to have gone into hibernation for nearly an hour during the presence of PM Khan in the assembly on the alternative private members’ day.

Some opposition members chanted slogans “Go Niazi Go” when the prime minister was leaving the House after the question hour.

It was only former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) who made a mention of the PM’s presence while posing a supplementary question to federal Minister for Housing and Works Tariq Bashir Cheema on the issue of Naya Pakistan housing project.

Mr Ashraf said as the premier had come to the assembly, he should brief them on the suicide blast at Data Darbar hours before the start of the proceedings.

But Mr Khan, who had actually come to parliament to preside over a meeting of the parliamentary party of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), did not utter a single word during the session.

PML-N claims they expected Imran to address their concerns over price hike and appointments of FBR chairman, SBP governor

It was also a rare scene to watch most of the ministers sitting on the front treasury benches, which mostly remain empty.

Mr Ashraf said that while the people had nothing to eat due to the skyrocketing prices of daily use items, the government was announcing that it would provide houses to them at the cost of Rs3 million.

Responding to the criticism, the housing minister said the people were suffering due to the wrong policies of the previous rulers.

Official record of the National Assembly Secretariat shows that the prime minister had come to the assembly after a gap of two months and 10 days. It was his seventh appearance in the NA after his election as the prime minister on August 17, 2018. Overall, during the 64 sittings of the house since its inaugural session on August 13 last year, this was his 10th presence. Last time the PM was seen in the assembly on February 28 during a joint session of parliament that had been convened to discuss India’s aggression against Pakistan in the aftermath of a suicide attack on the Indian soldiers in Pulwama district in India-held Kashmir. The prime minister, however, did not attend the concluding sitting the next day.

Legislative business

Speaker Asad Qaiser referred six private bills to the relevant committees while one bill was rejected after voice voting.

The bills referred to the committees were the Islamabad Capital Territory Domestic Workers Bill 2019 introduced by Mehnaz Akber Aziz of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz; Constitution Amendment Bill 2019 by Kishwer Zehra of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement; the Protection of Persons against Forced Religious Conversion Bill 2019 by Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani of the PTI; the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2019 moved by four MQM members; the Day Care Centres Bill 2019 by Shazia Marri of the PPP and the Islamabad Capital Territory Prohibition of Interest on Private Loans Bill 2019 by Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal.

The National Assembly will meet again on Thursday (today) at 2pm.

Talking to Dawn after the session, PML-N MNA and party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said the opposition had allowed the smooth proceedings, as they were expecting that the PM would make a speech after the question hour. She said some PTI lawmakers had also conveyed to them that Mr Khan would respond to their concerns over the issue of price hike and recent appointments of the State Bank governor and chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue.

However, Ms Aurangzeb said, instead of giving explanation on the key matters, the prime minister ran away from the house soon after the question hour. She said it seemed that Mr Khan had no “courage” to face the opposition that wanted to know as to why the government had made appointments on the key posts on directives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2019