Govt convenes NA, Senate sessions amid rising political heat

Published October 15, 2020
The government on Wednesday summoned regular sessions of both houses of parliament on Friday (tomorrow).  — APP/File
The government on Wednesday summoned regular sessions of both houses of parliament on Friday (tomorrow). — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Amid rising political temperatures in the country and in an apparent move to nullify the opposition’s act of requisitioning the National Assembly session, the government on Wednesday summoned regular sessions of both houses of parliament on Friday (tomorrow).

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) slammed the government’s decision to summon the sessions on a short notice and on the day when the opposition leaders will be attending their first public meeting from the platform of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in Gujranwala as part of their anti-government campaign.

“The president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has summoned the session of the National Assembly on Friday, the 16th October, 2020, at 4.30pm in the Parliament House, Islamabad,” says a notification issued by the National Assembly Secretariat.

The Senate Secretariat also issued a similar notification announcing that the president has summoned the session of the upper house of parliament at 10.30am on Friday. The president has summoned the sessions in exercise of powers conferred by Article 54(1) of the Constitution.

The opposition parties had submitted a requisition notice on Oct 5 to discuss a six-point agenda, including the last month’s arrest of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) president and opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Sittings called on the day of opposition alliance’s first public meeting in Gujranwala

Besides discussing the arrest of Mr Sharif, the opposition also wanted to discuss the issues of “rising inflation in the country, increasing cases of violence against women, including rape, massive increase in prices of life-saving medicines, simultaneous extortionate rise in electricity prices and increase in circular debt beyond Rs2,300 billion and continuing collapse in Pakistan’s foreign relations endangering national security”.

The requisition notice carried signatures of 125 opposition members.

Speaker Asad Qaiser was bound to summon the NA session by Oct 19, as Article 54(3) of the Constitution states: “On a requisition signed by not less than one-fourth of the total membership of the National Assembly, the Speaker shall summon the National Assembly to meet, at such time and place as he thinks fit, within fourteen days of the receipt of the requisition; and when the Speaker has summoned the Assembly only he may prorogue it.”

Since the government has convened its regular session, the requisition notice submitted by the opposition will now technically have no effect. However, sources in the opposition said they would press the government to take up the agenda which they had submitted with their requisition notice.

According to the tentative parliamentary calendar, the regular session of the National Assembly was due to begin on Oct 5 and it was to continue till Oct 16.

PPP leader and former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf at a news conference slammed the government for summoning the parliament sessions on the day when the opposition parties would be holding their first public meeting. “Is parliament run through deceit?” asked Mr Ashraf, who is also vice president of the PDM.

Lashing out at the government’s economic policies and price hike in the country, Mr Ashraf said the PDM would continue to raise the voice of the masses inside and outside parliament. He said they would not leave parliament and would continue to play the role of a real opposition.

Meanwhile, the PPP also condemned the government’s “crackdown” on the opposition leaders and workers ahead of their Friday’s public meeting in Gujranwala.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a statement condemned the Punjab police “siege” of village Bhagat of party leader Asif Bashir Bhagat in tehsil Phalia of Mandi Bahauddin and warned the regime to desist from such tactics.

The PPP chairman said the PTI regime had gone astray following the announcement of PDM’s movement, adding that such victimisation against the opposition workers won’t stop the regime’s fast-track reverse-counting.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said registration of cases against the PPP and other PDM workers, arrests and holding entire villages hostages should be stopped forthwith as “the implosion of the castle of sand built through stealing the people’s mandate and selectors’ masonry was now a matter of days”.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2020

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