National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri on Tuesday adjourned the National Assembly sitting, initially for 20 minutes but later till tomorrow, after members of the treasury created chaos on the floor once again.
The MNAs continued to protest and make noise as Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif tried to speak. This is the third time his speech was interrupted by noise and protests by the treasury in the ongoing session during which the Lower House is supposed to debate over the proposed budget.
Suri told protesting MNAs to "resolve their issues" before the sitting resumes. Today's sitting was supposed to start at 4pm but started late for unknown reasons.
The budget was announced by Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar last week. Since then, two sittings have been held and all have been adjourned without any debate due to noisy protests. Today is the fourth sitting of the ongoing session.
According to the law, the finance bill cannot be introduced for a vote before it has been debated in parliament.
While on paper PTI has the numbers to have the bill passed, the opposition has been busy shoring up support from opposition lawmakers to have its passage blocked. To this end, it has also contacted the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), a government partner, to switch allegiance and vote against it.
According to members of opposition parties, the deputy speaker called a meeting of parliamentary party leaders in the Presidential Lobby of the Parliament House to discuss the proceedings of the Lower House. The matter of issuance of production orders for PPP co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, who is currently under the custody of the National Accountability Bureau, was also discussed.
Apart from the PPP, none of the opposition parties attended the meeting.
Protests and meetings continue
Meanwhile, opposition leaders held a separate meeting in the opposition lobby of the Parliament House which was attended by Sharif, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl's (JUI-F) Maulana Asad Mahmood and others. The leaders discussed the proceedings of the House and agreed that Sharif should be able to finish his speech on the proposed budget.
Earlier, PPP lawmakers protested outside the office of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser for a second day over the non-issuance of production orders for Zardari. At the time of the protest, neither Qaiser nor Suri were present in their chambers.
Speaking to journalists outside the speaker's office, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman accused the government of "paralysing its own parliamentary system". She said that as member of parliament, it was Zardari's right to attend the budget session and cast his vote.
PPP leader Khursheed Shah had also met Sharif in the opposition leader's chambers in the parliament and held discussions over the opposition's strategy for the ongoing budget session.
The meeting was also attended by PML-N leaders Rana Sanaullah, Ayaz Sadiq, Rana Tanveer, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Khawaja Asif and Raja Zafarul Haq.
PML-N leaders also expressed concern over the non-issuance of production orders for Zardari.
BNP-M President Sardar Akhtar Mengal also visited the residence of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman today.
Speaking to the media after their meeting, Rehman said that he hoped that an All Parties Conference (APC) will be held next week and added that Mengal had given a "positive response" when asked to attend it. A final decision by BNP-M about its participation in the APC is yet to be announced.
When asked whether he would oppose or support the budget proposed by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Mengal said: "Many budgets came and went but they didn't change the situation of the country or the people. All political parties [have to] come up with a national agenda that supports democratic rule and also discusses how to provide relief to the class that is burdened by the budget, the weight of the politicians and the injustices committed by rulers, we cannot move ahead."