ISLAMABAD: A day after the passage of the federal budget, the National Assembly on Tuesday witnessed rumpus due to a verbal clash and sloganeering from both sides of the aisle after Speaker Asad Qaiser provided full opportunity to Ports and Shipping Minister Ali Zaidi to complete his speech in which he made personal attacks on the Pakistan Peoples Party leadership, but didn’t allow PPP’s Abdul Qadir Patel to give a response.
The speaker, who had reluctantly given the floor to Mr Patel, turned his mike off when he started his speech with the 1997 verdict of a Los Angeles court in the Sita White case over a girl named Tyrian, prompting a strong reaction from the treasury benches.
At one stage, PPP stalwart Syed Naveed Qamar, who is otherwise known for his reconciliatory role in the house, was seen rushing to the treasury benches after removing his coat, challenging the ministers to have a physical fight with him.
“Are they promoting the parliament’s prestige? Come and let’s have a fight, I am removing my coat,” Mr Qamar said when he was not allowed to speak by the ministers when given the floor by the speaker to respond to Mr Zaidi’s speech. Later, Mr Qamar asked the speaker to give the floor to Mr Patel since the minister had named him in his speech.
The opposition members staged a walkout when the speaker, instead of giving the floor back to Mr Patel, started putting supplementary demands for grants worth over Rs544 billion before the house for approval.
Opposition protests outside Parliament House; challenges PM to seek vote of confidence
The opposition members later held a protest outside the Parliament House on the Constitution Avenue against price hike, increase in oil prices and alleged biased attitude of the speaker.
Minutes after the opposition’s walkout, Prime Minister Imran Khan entered the house and remained present till the approval of the supplementary grants and prorogation of the house after his concluding speech of the budget session.
It was all going smoothly until Ali Zaidi sought floor on a point of personal explanation, saying he wanted to respond to the Monday’s speech of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari who had called him a “corrupt minister”.
The minister refuted corruption charges and said if corruption of a single penny was proved against him, he should be insulted publicly and that he would never show his face to Prime Minister Khan.
Mr Zaidi alleged that it was the PPP which brought terrorism to the country with the hijacking of a PIA plane in 1981 by its Al-Zulfiqar organisation. He said he had the “evidence” to expose the “criminal activities” of the PPP on the floor of the assembly.
Quoting from a report of the joint investigation team on alleged criminal activities of Uzair Baloch and Nisar Morai, the minister said that for decades the PPP had ruled Sindh by employing “criminals, land grabbers and extortionists and the investigation reports clearly stated they were on the payroll of the higher-ups of the party”.
He alleged that Nisar Morai and Uzair Baloch had been given key positions in the Sindh fisheries department on the recommendations of Faryal Talpur, the sister of former president Asif Zardari, and they “used to contribute funds looted from the industrialists and businessmen of Karachi”.
“Nisar Morai has confessed to his involvement in three murders and fled Pakistan on the instructions of the PPP in March 2016, and Uzair Baloch has confessed to murdering more than 150 innocent people, his involvement in ethnic cleansing and fomenting violence in Karachi,” he said.
He alleged that Saeed Khan, who had been appointed in the fisheries department by the PPP, used to give millions of rupees to Uzair Baloch and Faryal Talpur.
Moreover, he alleged that an investigation report by SP Rizwan of Sindh police had named Saeed Ghani’s brother Farhan Ghani as a drug peddler of Chanesar Goth and Mehmoodabad. He said PPP MNA Patel also had been mentioned in these reports. He also accused Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani of his role in the appointments in Karachi.
Mr Zaidi alleged that former interior minister Nasirullah Babar of the PPP had been called “Taliban architect” by a newspaper, whereas former prime minister Benazir Bhutto also allegedly had connections with Taliban. “Who killed Khalid Shehanshah (the security chief of Ms Bhutto) in broad daylight?” he asked.
At one point, the speaker switched the minister’s mike off when the PPP members protested over his act of allowing the minister to deliver a long speech on a point of personal explanation. However, the speaker again provided the opportunity to Mr Zaidi to complete his speech when a number of ministers protested over the speaker’s act of switching his mike off.
It all happened from the treasury benches despite the fact that earlier in the day, Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry had offered reconciliation to the opposition, asking it to agree on a “minimum common agenda”, including judicial reforms and changes in the accountability law.
Speaking outside the Parliament House, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said today the country was facing an extraordinary situation. He said the government had lost confidence of its members and its allies which was evident from the fact that the government had managed to secure 160 votes, 12 short of simple majority. He challenged the prime minister to obtain a vote of confidence from the house.
PML-N’s Khawaja Asif said they would have to activate all the forums, including parliament, to oust the government as early as possible and before things reached an irreversible position.
Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2020