ISLAMABAD: Opposition parties in the National Assembly on Friday hinted at the possibility of early elections in the country and resolved to move the Supreme Court against what they called “hasty and unconstitutional manner” in which the government got 11 ordinances passed in just half an hour the previous day.

During the proceedings, members from the treasury and opposition benches exchanged barbs in the lower house of parliament, accusing each other of ruining the country’s economy.

Members of the opposition parties criticised National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar for becoming “a part of the government” as he had agreed to become a member of the government’s committee that is holding talks with the joint opposition’s Rehbar committee over the Islamabad sit-in organised by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F).

In an interesting development, the son of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maulana Asad Mehmood, accepted the challenge thrown by the federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, Ali Amin Gandapur, for a fresh election in the constituency of Dera Ismail Khan, the city to which the two legislators belong.

A resolution for a no-confidence motion against the deputy speaker of National Assembly submitted

In a fiery speech on the floor of the house, senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and former defence minister Khawaja Asif predicted that fresh elections would be held soon in the country. “Fresh elections will take place soon, on our demand,” he said.

He warned the government that something “big will happen soon in the country” that the government did not know about. “We know what you [the government] do not know,” he claimed.

Mr Asif said the opposition would soon move the Supreme Court for an interpretation of the Constitution to decide if the government’s move to get the bills approved without holding a debate was in accordance with the law or not.

The current session started on Thursday after Prime Minister Imran Khan held a meeting of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) parliamentary committee, where he instructed legislators to get all the bills passed, especially the one aimed at replacing the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) with the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC). The prime minister remained in his chamber in the Parliament House until the session was adjourned till Friday.

Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri got the 11 ordinances passed in such haste that no time was given to the legislators to hold a proper debate on them. He turned a deaf ear to the opposition lawmakers, who tore up copies of the bills, threw them towards the deputy speaker and converged on the speaker’s dais.

The opposition later vowed to bring a no-confidence motion against the deputy speaker.

On Friday, Mr Asif urged Speaker Qaisar to become an advocate for democracy and supremacy of the house, instead of becoming a part of the government.

He also demanded of the PTI to account for the funds it had allegedly received from other countries. “The thieves who had taken money from Indians have been caught today,” he said, amid shouting by treasury benchers.

Earlier, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak said in his speech the opposition parties talked about democracy, but were not even ready to listen to PTI lawmakers.

Talking about the anti-government sit-in being held by the JUI-F, the minister said no headway had so far been made in easing the crisis. He urged the opposition parties to convince Maulana Fazl to come to the negotiating table.

Communications Minister Murad Saeed accused the opposition leaders of looting the country’s wealth in his hard-hitting speech.

Election challenge

After an exchange of harsh words, Asad Mehmood of the JUI-F said he was ready to resign from the assembly and contest an election against Mr Gandapur if the minister too was ready to tender his resignation.

“I want to show to the whole of Pakistan your true face,” he said while gesturing towards the minister for Kashmir affairs.

In response, Mr Gandapur said he was ready to vacate his seat and contest a by-election against JUI-F chief Maulana Fazl. He added that the JUI-F could monitor the elections with surveillance cameras.

After the adjournment of the session till Monday evening, the opposition leaders submitted a resolution for a no-confidence motion against Deputy Speaker Suri.

They were of the view that the deputy speaker had lost the confidence of the majority of the house by getting the 11 ordinances approved in undue haste.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2019