NA session adjourned after loud opposition sloganeering and little progress

Updated 17 Oct 2020

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Lawmakers gather in the National Assembly for a session. — DawnNewsTV
Lawmakers gather in the National Assembly for a session. — DawnNewsTV

The National Assembly session on Friday got off to a noisy start with opposition lawmakers chanting anti-government slogans despite the speaker's repeated appeals for order in the house.

Loud sloganeering by opposition lawmakers continued as Prime Minister Imran Khan walked into the assembly along with other government members and ministers.

The NA meeting, called into session yesterday, was held hours before the opposition alliance's – Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – rally in Gujranwala, where leaders and supporters from the country's major opposition parties are gathering in protest against the government's policies.

PM Imran Khan prays for the souls of martyred soldiers and guards, during an NA session. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi sits beside the premier. — DawnNewsTV
PM Imran Khan prays for the souls of martyred soldiers and guards, during an NA session. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi sits beside the premier. — DawnNewsTV

The assembly session started off with prayers for the 13 security personnel and seven private guards, who were martyred in separate terrorist attacks in Balochistan's Gwadar district and the North Waziristan tribal district a day earlier.

PM Imran left the house when the session was adjourned for 20 minutes following a ruckus by the opposition. After the sitting resumed, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan presented a bill to introduce an amendment in the Election Act 2017 before the assembly.

The Election Amendment Bill 2020 was referred to the relevant committee and the session was adjourned until October 19.

'No problem with opposition public meetings'

During a meeting of PTI's parliamentary party earlier today, the prime minister had declared that he had "no problem with opposition's movements and public meetings".

"Opposition is unemployed, there is no need to give them any importance," the premier was quoted as saying by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan, who had attended the meeting.

The prime minister further said that he wanted the "opposition to hold public gatherings every day" and added: "The opposition is being exposed before the public every day."

'Can't fix everything in two years'

Information Minister Shibli Faraz addresses the Senate on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
Information Minister Shibli Faraz addresses the Senate on Friday. — DawnNewsTV

Earlier in the day during the Senate session, Information Minister Shibli Faraz hit back at the opposition for criticising the government for rising inflation, stating that they were the ones responsible for the country's sorry state.

Speaking on the floor of the Senate, he said: "[The opposition] says that inflation is rising [but] you are its root cause. It is because of your policies and the collapse of government institutions over the last 40 to 50 years [yet] you expect us to fix this in two years.

"We will fix it and will enable the country and government institutions to stand on their own two feet." Admitting to a rise in inflation, the minister added that it was a "temporary thing" and would be resolved within the next few weeks.

"But if [the opposition] thinks that they can put us under pressure, like they did when it came to the Financial Action Task Force laws and National Accountability Bureau laws, that will not happen."

President Dr Arif Alvi had summoned regular sessions of both houses of parliament today — the same day the opposition-led Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) prepares for its first rally in Gujranwala.

The opposition has claimed that the rally will lay the foundation for the ouster of Imran Khan’s government.

During the Senate session, the information minister said that the opposition was staging the Gujranwala rally not in favour of "the likes of Saad Rafique" but to protect the "two royal families" who considered it their right to come into power.

"They say the elections were rigged [...] gather the data and see how many election petitions you filed and how many PTI filed." What double standards are these, he questioned, adding that the opposition was only happy when things proceeded according to their wishes.

He said that the opposition had "exposed themselves" and would not be coming back into power. "Their [days in] politics are up."

During today's session, the Senate passed two resolutions expressing grief and sorrow over the deaths of former senators Syed Qurban Ali Shah and Hazrat Hameeduddin Sialvi, Radio Pakistan reported. The Senate also offered prayers for the security personnel and private guards martyred in two separate terrorist attacks on Thursday.

During the question hour session, Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar said that the country's economic indicators were positive with foreign remittances witnessing a 20 per cent increase as compared to previous years.

"Despite resistance from some quarters, the government has strengthened money laundering laws," he said, adding that it has now been declared a cognizable offense. He stated that Pakistan's progress in this regard will be noted by the FATF at the next meeting.

PPP slams summoning of NA, Senate session

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman on Friday called the government's move an attempt to prevent opposition leaders from attending the rally in Gujranwala.

"Senate and National Assembly sessions called today suddenly to prevent many of us going to the #PDMGujranwallahjalsa. Posters being removed, flags taken down, containers everywhere, arrests of PPP and PDM workers on the ground. Doesn’t #TabahiSarkar know this won’t work?"

The president had summoned the sessions in exercise of powers conferred by Article 54(1) of the Constitution. Shortly after the notifications were issued, the PPP had slammed the government’s decision.

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

Besides discussing the arrest of Shehbaz, 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.