NA, Senate may witness heated proceedings today

Updated 19 Oct 2020

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Both hou­ses of parliament will go into session on Monday after a two-day recess amid heightened political tensions in the country. — AFP/File
Both hou­ses of parliament will go into session on Monday after a two-day recess amid heightened political tensions in the country. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Both hou­ses of parliament will go into session on Monday after a two-day recess amid heightened political tensions in the country, with many burning issues on their respective agendas which may make proceedings thrilling and heated.

Besides introduction of nine bills, the 48-point age­n­da issued for the Senate sitting includes some motions moved by opposition members seeking debate on the two-year performance of the PTI-led coalition governm­ent and a recent decision of the cabinet to increase pri­ces of 94 life-saving drugs.

The motion seeking a discussion on the two-year performance of the coalition gov­ernment led by the Pak­istan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) stands in the name of Pakis­tan Peoples Party (PPP) Sen­a­tor Sassui Palejo, while Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq in his motion wants a debate on the inc­rease in prices of 94 life-saving drugs approved by the cabinet in its Sept 22 meeting.

The sessions of the Nat­io­nal Assembly and the Senate are being held after the nat­ion witnessed three consecutive days of intense political activities and fiery speeches from both the opposition and the government sides.

The opposition parties held a noisy protest in the Nat­ional Assembly on the opening day on Friday against the government’s decision to call the session at a time when the Pakistan Demo­cratic Movement (PDM) was holding its first rally in Gujranwala.

Motions on PTI govt’s two-year performance and increase in prices of life-saving drugs on agenda

Carrying placards, opp­osition members chan­ted slogans against the pri­me minister and the government despite repeated appeals by NA Speaker Asad Qaiser for maintaining order in the house.

The opposition’s protest compelled Prime Minister Imran Khan to leave the house without delivering a planned speech.

The opposition lawmakers turned the focus of their slogans towards Prime Minister Imran Khan as he walked into the assembly with other government members and ministers.

The speaker, who had hoped the situation would become normal, adjourned the session, resuming it after 40 minutes. However, there was no let-up in the opposition’s protest.

PPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar asked the speaker why the session was called on Friday despite the fact that it was scheduled for Oct 19, alleging that the government was itself weakening the parliament by subjugating the opposition’s role.

He urged the Speaker not to make the parliament “irrelevant” by cornering the opposition.

“Protest movements have been launched in the country against sitting governments since 1947 and they will continue in future as well, but it does not mean the parliament should be run without the opposition,” he had said.

The prime minister, however, got an opportunity to criticise opposition parties, especially PML-N’s leader Nawaz Sharif, while speaking at the convention of the Corona Relief Tiger Force on Saturday in which he declared that he would make every effort to bring Mr Sharif back to the country and put him behind bars.

In the same speech, Mr Khan had also announced that in future no production order would be issued for any opposition member to allow him to attend parliamentary proceedings.

The speaker, who has already been on the opposition’s target since the joint sitting of the parliament last month, is expected to face the wrath of the opposition which always accuses him of taking dictation from the prime minister and the government ministers while running the house.

In Senate, the opposition members are also expected to agitate against the government’s failure to table the controversial Pakistan Islands Development Auth­ority (PIDA) Ordinance, 2020, in the National Assem­bly or the Senate when both houses were in session on Friday.

PPP’s parliamentary leader in Senate Sherry Rehman in a statement on Saturday had said that there was a clear mala fide intent in not tabling the ordinance in the parliament.

The opposition parties had already submitted a resolution to the Senate Secre­tariat, seeking disapproval of the PIDA Ordinance in an effort to block the federal government’s move to take control of the two islands for developing them as trade and investment hubs and international tourist destinations.

Keeping the parliament out of the loop, President Dr Arif Alvi on Aug 31 promulgated the PIDA Ordinance to allow the federal government to take control of the Bundal and Buddo islands along the Karachi coast to initiate and maintain a continuous process of reclamation, master planning, urban planning, spatial planning and to promote and stimulate the twin islands as trade, investment and logistics centres, duty-free areas and international tourist destinations.

The promulgation of the ordinance triggered criticism from the ruling party of Sindh as PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari equ­a­ted the move with the illegal annexation of India-held Jammu and Kashmir last year by the Modi government.

The Sindh government has been asking the federal government to “immediately” withdraw the ordinance, saying the islands belonged exclusively to the people and the government of Sindh.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2020