ISLAMABAD: Three days after receiving plaudits from President Dr Arif Alvi in parliament over its one-year performance, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government on Monday faced an embarrassing situation in the National Assembly when some treasury members lashed out at it over the recent price hike and poor showing in the education sector.
First, two PTI MNAs from Islamabad — Ali Nawaz Awan and Raja Khurram Shahzad — criticised the government over the issue of denial of admission to students in colleges of the federal capital and then the party legislator from Peshawar Noor Alam Khan delivered a fiery speech targeting Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh over the recent increase in prices of gas, electricity and food items.
Mr Khan’s speech on a point of order was the only highlight of the day during the otherwise dull proceedings of the National Assembly when it met after a two-day recess with empty front benches on both sides of the aisle.
Three PTI lawmakers lash out at their own government over price hike and poor showing in education sector
“The finance minister should come here. Why is he wasting public money?” Mr Khan said, asking Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri to summon Dr Shaikh to give “an explanation over the price hike”.
Amid desk-thumping by the opposition members, the ruling party’s MNA asked the chair to call the adviser on finance to take the house into confidence as to “what negotiations he has been holding with the IMF (International Monetary Fund)”. “Electricity has become dearer but no one is giving any explanation,” he regretted.
Mr Khan, who had quit the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to join the PTI only weeks before the last year’s general elections, also questioned the government’s decision to increase the price of urea by Rs200 per bag. “Why are you hiking prices of urea and gas? Why have you increased the price of roti (bread)? How will a salaried class person survive?” he asked.
“We do not come here only for desk-thumping. We come here to talk about the poor,” he thundered and then said: “Curse on those who are elected through the votes of the poor people and then do not talk about them.”
Mr Khan also threatened to resign from the assembly, saying that he was ready to sacrifice his seat “if someone does not like what I am saying”.
The PTI legislator also expressed his apprehensions over the ongoing accountability process. “Either carry out accountability in a true manner or close it,” he said, adding that accountability could not be done by catching only two or three persons.
During his constitutionally-mandated address to parliament on the opening of the new parliamentary year on Sept 12, President Alvi had lauded the government’s performance in almost every sector. He had specifically praised the economic team of the government for what he called making efforts to bring the country’s economy out of crisis.
Earlier, through a calling-attention notice, Ali Nawaz Awan and Raja Khurram drew the attention of the house to the “problems being faced by the students who have not been granted admission in colleges and schools in Islamabad”.
The two PTI lawmakers alleged that the principals and heads of educational institutions were refusing admissions to students on one pretext or the other and as a result thousands of children were out of colleges and schools. They also criticised the government for not regularising the services of daily-wage teachers and not making new appointments despite the fact that Islamabad’s educational institutions were facing an acute shortage of teachers.
Soon after the question hour, PPP’s Shazia Marri once again raised the issue of non-issuance of production orders for the arrested legislators, including former president Asif Zardari. She said it was the right of the members to attend the proceedings and the speaker should use his powers under the rules as custodian of the house in this regard.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2019