ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Tuesday cancelled the parliamentary leaders’ meeting which he had convened on Wednesday (today) for “a briefing by military officials on the current issues of national security” after the opposition parties decided to stay away from it.

The decision to cancel the meeting was announced officially by the National Assembly Secretariat through a tweet without mentioning any reason.

Earlier, information secretary of the opposition’s 11-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) Mian Iftikhar Hussain through a statement made the announcement regarding their decision to boycott the meeting under the speaker, accusing him of being biased and “suppressing the opposition’s voice in the National Assembly”.

Qaiser accused of constantly suppressing opposition’s voice

“The constituent parties of the PDM will not attend the parliamentary leaders’ meeting that has been convened on Nov 11. The decision has been made by PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman after consultation with all the component parties of the alliance,” said Mr Hussain.

“The government has failed to resolve the people’s problems and control price hike. The government, which has failed at every front, has become a real threat to the national security itself,” the PDM leader stated.

Mr Hussain alleged that the speaker had also failed to run the assembly according to rules and parliamentary traditions. He said there was a “ban” on raising public issues in parliament and “the state affairs are being run in violation of the Constitution”.

“Under these circumstances, no meaningful talks can be held,” Mr Hussain added.

On the other hand, a spokesman for the speaker refuted the opposition’s allegations and termed them “factually incorrect”.

Talking to Dawn, he quoted the speaker as having stated that he had always provided opportunity and freedom to the opposition members to speak on the floor of the house which was evident from the fact that during the budget debate, they were given more than the allocated time.

The spokesperson recalled that even parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Khawaja Asif in his speech on the budget had praised the speaker for giving sufficient time to the opposition members to take part in the debate.

The speaker had convened the meeting at a time when the key opposition members, including Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, were busy in running the election campaign in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Sources in the government had told Dawn that the main objective of the briefing was to make an effort to develop a national consensus on granting “provisional provincial status” to strategically-located GB.

Although there was no official confirmation from the government or the Inter-Services Public Relations, the sources had said that Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and head of the Inter-Services Intelligence Lt Gen Faiz Hameed were to conduct the briefing.

AJK President Masood Khan and Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider and GB Governor Raja Jalal Maqpoon and caretaker chief minister Mir Afzal had also been invited to the briefing.

This is the second time in six weeks that the speaker had to cancel a meeting of the parliamentary leaders as previously he had to nix a similar meeting which he had convened on Sept 28 to discuss the upcoming elections in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2020