ISLAMABAD: The repeated use of the term “selected prime minister” by Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif in the presence of Imran Khan caused a ruckus in the National Assembly on Thursday during a debate on the opposition-moved cut motions on the budgetary demands for grants for various divisions and ministries.
The members from both sides of the aisle kept on raising slogans against each other until Speaker Asad Qaiser, in a fit of anger, expunged the word “selected” from the assembly proceedings and issued directives to the lawmakers and the media not to use the expunged remarks.
The opposition members, however, continued to make fun of the speaker’s directives as they kept on using the term “selected” tactfully while moving their cut motions, which were defeated by the government members.
Govt defeats all cut motions proposed by the opposition
Soon after calm returned to the house, the speaker gave floor to Abdul Qadir Patel of the Pakistan Peoples Party who, while moving a cut motion, stated that he had “selected a cut motion”. After Mr Patel, a number of other opposition members moved their cut motions while using the banned term.
Sheikh Fayyazuddin of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, while moving a cut motion, used the term “selected” many times, saying that he would not use it since “you [the speaker] consider it an abuse” and then after presenting the motion, he told the speaker amid peals of laughter that “look, I have not used the word selected”.
During voting on cut motions on a demand for grant for development expenditure of the interior division, the government achieved the magical figure of 172 votes, a minimum requirement for election of the prime minister, against 137 votes of the opposition.
Earlier, a demand for grants for power division had been approved by the house with 169-143 votes, thus proving the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s hold on the National Assembly.
Prime Minister Khan came to the house twice before voting on the cut motions whereas Mr Sharif left the house after defeat on the first motion.
The opposition members staged a walkout when the speaker started seeking quick approval of the demands for grants after the house voted out all their cut motions, anticipating that perhaps the government wanted to approve the budget on Thursday. However, as the opposition members were leaving the house, the speaker adjourned the house till Friday morning (today).
It all started when during his winding up speech, Federal Minister for Power Omar Ayub Khan alleged that the previous PML-N government had shelved more than 250 renewable energy projects to set up expensive LNG-based power plants in the country.
Responding to the opposition’s criticism over the “unprecedented increase” in the prices of gas and electricity, the minister said they were doing it because of faulty policies and corruption of the previous rulers. He said the PTI government had revived these renewable energy projects.
He claimed that the government had to pay Rs100 million electricity bill of the Prime Minister House for the last five years of the PML-N government.
He also alleged that the PML-N government did not take action against power thieves in its last year to win the elections.
Omar Ayub said there was an extra burden of Rs200bn on the kitty due to the capacity charges and announced that the government had decided not to renew the contracts with independent power producers after their expiry in the next few years.
“We are clearing the landmines laid by previous governments,” he said.
The opposition leader took the floor to respond to the minister and refuted his claim that the PML-N government had abandoned the renewable energy projects.
The prime minister entered the house amid loud desk-thumping and sloganeering by the treasury members when Mr Sharif was speaking.
As soon as PM Khan took his seat, Mr Sharif said “the selected prime minister” used to give them a lecture on the negative effect of rupee devaluation, but now the dollar price had risen by Rs7 in just a few hours. As a result, he said, the Rs9.7 billion defence budget allocation had been reduced to Rs6.3bn.
The speaker turned Mr Sharif’s mike off and expunged the remarks when the treasury members stood up in protest over the use of the term “selected PM.”
It was Omar Ayub who had last week for the first time raised the issue of the use of the term “selected” for PM Khan and asked the chair to ban its use in the assembly. He had also threatened to move privilege motions against those lawmakers who would use the term in their speeches in the assembly.
Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri who was presiding over the sitting at that time asked the members not to use the words which brought insult to the house and its members.
Next day, the opposition members protested over the deputy speaker’s directive and sought a clarification from him if he had issued a formal ruling. They asked him to also ban the use of words like “thieves” and “robbers” by the treasury lawmakers for the opposition leaders. The deputy speaker, however, simply requested the members not use the objectionable words.
Winding up the debate on the cut motions on the demands for grants for the interior division and civil armed forces, Federal Minister for Interior retired Brig Ijaz Shah declared Pakistan a “security state”.
The minister quoted an Indian scholar and a leader of Indian National Congress of the pre-independence era, Abul Kalam Azad, who had stated that “Pakistan will become a security state instead of a welfare state”.
The minister said seeing the prevailing security situation in the country, it seemed that Mr Azad had written these lines “last month while sitting in one of the chambers of the assembly”.
Last month, the interior minister, who had served as the head of the civilian spy agency Intelligence Bureau during the military rule of Gen Pervez Musharraf, had made similar remarks during a meeting of the parliamentary committee.
The National Assembly is expected to approve the budget on Friday (today).
Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2019