ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly continued the debate on the issue of price hike for the third consecutive day on Thursday, with the opposition suggesting the ouster of the government and fresh elections as the only solution to save the country from total disaster and a federal minister offering it to sign a “charter of economy” for consistent economic policies.
Nearly three-hour-long proceedings, however, once again ended abruptly when the opposition staged a walkout after pointing out lack of quorum to prevent parliamentary secretary for commerce Aliya Hamza from speaking when she once again started targeting the opposition leadership and used the term “Mr 10 Per cent” in an apparent reference to former president Asif Ali Zardari.
The parliamentary secretary provoked the opposition’s protest despite earlier warnings by Speaker Asad Qaiser and Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri that they would take action against those who would make “personal attacks” on each other’s leadership.
Quoting Wednesday’s incident when the treasury and opposition members had come to blows during the speech of Energy Minister Omar Ayub Khan for calling Asif Zardari “Mr 10 Per cent”, the speaker said some members had made “below the belt” remarks during the debate on the price hike, which was a breach of the privilege of the house.
Minister wants opposition to sign ‘charter of economy’
“Do not make personal attacks. I am telling all the parliamentary leaders. Next time, if it happens, I will switch off the mike and take action against the member, whether belonging to the treasury or opposition,” Mr Qaiser warned.
Responding to the speech of PPP leader and former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in which he had mentioned some of the statements of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Aliya Hamza quoted a report from the UK’s Daily Mail with the headline “Mr Ten Per Cent”. When the PPP members protested, she said they should go to Google and simply search “Mr Ten Per Cent”.
Mr Ashraf protested the remarks and said the parliamentary secretary was instigating the opposition just ahead of the address to a joint sitting of parliament by the visiting Turkish president. He said the opposition did not want to spoil the environment on this occasion, but perhaps she was instigating them. He then started walking out of the house and another PPP MNA Shagufta Jumani pointed out lack of quorum.
PTI lawmaker Amjid Niazi, who was presiding over the sitting in the absence of the speaker and deputy speaker, adjourned the sitting till Friday after finding the house not in order due to lack of required attendance of one-fourth (86 members) of the 342-member house.
Earlier, taking part in the debate, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) MNA Ahsan Iqbal lashed out at Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh for presenting a “rosy picture” of the economy and mocked him by saying that he wanted to visit that Pakistan about which the adviser was talking.
Mr Iqbal said the present government had no solution to the present crisis. “The country needs immediate fresh elections to bring it out of economic mess. There is a need to get rid of the [present] rulers before the situation becomes irreversible,” he added.
Taking part in the debate, Food Security Minister Khusro Bakhtiar invited the opposition to work out a charter of economy, outlining a reform package for revival of agriculture, industry, tax collection, banking and energy sectors in the country at least for a period of 10 years.
During the minister’s speech, the some opposition members kept on raising slogans “atta, atta” (wheat flour).
Asad Mehmood of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) criticised the minister and said this person who was telling them the reasons for the poor economy was actually seen by the nation as the main person behind the recent sugar and wheat crises.
Mr Mehmood, who is the son of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said Hafeez Shaikh had delivered the speech as a representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), instead of the government. He said the PPP and PML-N should also take practical steps for the ouster of the government.
The JUI-F legislator announced that his party would soon launch another movement against the government and its last station would be Islamabad.
Raja Pervez Ashraf, while pointing towards empty treasury benches, said this showed the seriousness of the government towards the most important public issue. He alleged that the government itself wanted to make parliament redundant.
He said the PTI had inherited the most stable Pakistan as compared to the previous governments. He said the PPP government had left a “wheat-exporting Pakistan” which had now been turned into a “wheat deficient country”.
Mr Ashraf said the prime minister had recently stated that his two-member family could not make both ends meet with a meager salary of Rs200,000, then how could a family of six could survive under the present inflation.
Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2020