ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly (NA) Shahbaz Sharif have been severely criticised for not attending the proceedings of the lower house for a long time.

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry has written a letter to NA Speaker NA Asad Qaiser asking him to take notice of prolonged absence of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shahbaz Sharif from the house.

In a post shared on Twitter, the minister said in his letter, he had urged Mr Qaiser to ask Mr Sharif about the date of his return to the National Assembly otherwise the process of choosing a new opposition leader should be initiated.

Talal hits back with note about PM

In reaction to Mr Fawad’s move, PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry also wrote a letter to the speaker urging him to summon Prime Minister Khan in the house for not attending its proceedings, but regularly getting monthly salary and other perks as a member of the lower house.

Mr Fawad in his letter said: “The opposition leader plays an important role in legislation and he is also receiving special privileges. However his absence is a violation of National Assembly’s rules. The post [of leader of the opposition] could not be left empty for a very long time.”

The minister said that after giving a guarantee for the return of Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister convicted in a corruption case and now in London on medical grounds, Mr Shahbaz himself had “disappeared”.

He reminded the NA speaker that the leader of the opposition had not appeared in the parliament for a “long time” and had also quit his post as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly.

Following Mr Fawad’s tweet, PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry said that they too had submitted a letter to the NA speaker stating that the “flour and sugar stealing prime minister” was missing from the parliament for a long time too.

Mr Shahbaz left for London in November last year when he accompanied his elder brother Nawaz Sharif to London for medical treatment.

Ahead of the departure, Mr Shahbaz had submitted an undertaking in the Lahore High Court, ensuring the return of Mr Nawaz within four weeks or as and when certified by the doctors that he had regained his health and was fit to return to Pakistan.

Just days after his departure for London, it was reported that the opposition leader had relinquished his role as the PAC chairman.

In his resignation, which he submitted on Nov 18, a day before leaving the country, Mr Shahbaz had nominated PML-N MNA Rana Tanvir Hussain as his replacement.

Last month, PML-N Punjab president Rana Sanaullah said that there was a reason behind Mr Shahbaz’s extended stay in London and he would return at an appropriate time, probably in March.

Mr Talal said in his letter: “Business, job and bread stealing prime minister is missing in the parliament for long time but getting monthly salary and other perks and privileges being a member of the National Assembly.”

The PML-n leader said he had also asked the speaker to sort out how many turncoats, who had remained part of former president Gen Pervez Musharraf’s regime, were present in the house.

Mr Talal told Mr Fawad that if he found the “incompetent” prime minister, he should “hand him over” to the speaker at once.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2020