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Defiant treasury members embarrass National Assembly speaker

Updated June 18, 2019

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ISLAMABAD: Ruling PTI lawmakers protesting during Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif’s speech in the lower house of parliament on Monday. — INP
ISLAMABAD: Ruling PTI lawmakers protesting during Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif’s speech in the lower house of parliament on Monday. — INP

ISLAMABAD: Speaker Asad Qaiser on Monday faced a hard time in the National Assembly when he was first lambasted by the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for not issuing a production order for former president Asif Zardari and then the members of his own ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), including federal ministers, caused him embarrassment by defying his repeated directives and continued creating ruckus to prevent Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif from opening up a general debate on the federal budget.

Read: NA session adjourned as chaos prevents budget debate from progressing

After failing to bring the house in order despite issuing several warnings to the protesting treasury members, a visibly angry and helpless speaker finally adjourned the proceedings within a few minutes till Tuesday when Mr Sharif was still speaking.

Before adjourning the sitting, the speaker said that running the house was not solely his responsibility and both the treasury and the opposition were also duty-bound to run the proceedings smoothly.

And before coming to the house, the speaker remained besieged in his office for nearly half an hour due to a sit-in by the PPP lawmakers outside his office to register their protest against non-issuance of Mr Zardari’s production order.

PTI lawmakers again prevent Shahbaz from opening budget debate; PPP members stage sit-in outside speaker’s office

Under a changed strategy, the opposition leader, who had on Friday refused to open the budget discussion due to a similar noisy protest by the treasury members stating that he would do it only when the house would be in order, continued his speech ignoring the protest by the government members who had also surrounded him during the speech.

Some of the PTI members were also carrying placards inscribed with slogans against the opposition leadership. They also kept on raising slogans “thief, thief, robber, robber” when Mr Sharif declared Prime Minister Imran Khan as the “biggest liar” in the country’s history.

Mr Sharif, who is also president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), said the prime minister had in his last midnight televised address to the nation used threatening tone and once again talked about the state of Madina without realising that there was no place for a liar in the Islamic state. Mr Sharif in his speech, which was hardly audible in galleries, also pointed out some of the achievements of the previous PML-N government, saying they had successfully eliminated load-shedding and terrorism from the country under the leadership of the party’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, who is presently undergoing jail sentence in the Al-Azizia corruption reference.

Amid loud sloganeering by the government lawmakers, the opposition leader claimed that the PML-N government had brought down inflation from 12 per cent to a historic low of 3pc and the growth rate increased from 3pc to 5pc during their five-year rule.

In his initial remarks, Mr Sharif also asked the speaker to issue production orders for Mr Zardari, PML-N MNA Khawaja Saad Rafique and other two arrested MNAs, Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir.

At the outset of the sitting, the PPP lawmakers raised slogans demanding production order for Mr Zardari.

Speaking on a point of order, former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf drew the attention of the speaker towards the rules which gave him powers to issue production orders for arrested members of the house. He accused the speaker of treating the PPP with discrimination by denying production order for Mr Zardari who, according to him, had made parliament all powerful by voluntarily surrendering his powers when he was president of the country.

The speaker said he had already sought a legal opinion from the Ministry of Law on the issue and was waiting for their advice.

After adjournment of the house, the opposition members held a news conference outside the Parliament House, expressing surprise over the behaviour of the government legislators. PML-N leader Khawaja Asif alleged that the ruling party was intentionally avoiding a discussion on the budget and creating a chaos after their failure to deliver. He feared that if parliament was not allowed to function, some other forces might take advantage of the situation.

This was not for the first time that the government members created disorder in the house as they had also prevented Shahbaz from opening the debate on the budget on Friday through a similar noisy protest.

The strategy to create rumpus in the house had apparently been finalised at a meeting of the PTI’s parliamentary group presided over by Prime Minister Khan as the treasury members had come to the house directly after attending the meeting.

A participant of the meeting told Dawn that some of the PTI members were of the view that the opposition had not missed any chance to humiliate the prime minister and ministers in the National Assembly and despite repeated assurance to the speaker, the opposition was bent upon its tactics to disrupt the proceedings.

He said the PTI members agreed that the government had met all demands of the opposition regarding probe into alleged rigging in the last general elections and reviewing the accountability laws, but the opposition had decided not to let the speaker to run the house smoothly.

“It is the height of the opposition’s hooliganism. Therefore, the PTI has decided to give a similar response to the opposition by blocking speeches of opposition leaders by different means,” said a PTI lawmaker, confirming that the prime minister had also urged them to act “aggressively” for the passage of the federal budget presented by the government on June 11.

According to an official press release issued by the Prime Minister Office, PM Khan was of the view that it was quite ironic that the opposition was intentionally creating disturbance in the house during current budget debate. He said the government had faced the worst phase in the history of the country during its first 10 months, adding that when the PTI came to power the country was suffering from worst economic crisis.

He again criticised the former rulers and blamed them for putting the country under heavy foreign debts during last decade, saying that “half of the total revenue of the country goes for debt retirement”.

The prime minister asked the parliamentarians to play active role in getting the federal budget passed and regretted the attitude of opposition parties for their deliberate attempt to disrupt the NA proceedings during the budget session.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2019