ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties on Tuesday finally announced their decision to boycott a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Coronavirus Disease on Wednesday (today) in line with its previous decision to stay away from all meetings to be presided over by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser due to his alleged biased conduct.
The decision to boycott the meeting was announced by former prime minister and senior vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in his capacity as secretary general of the 11-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in a statement.
Mr Abbasi said the speaker had lost the trust of the opposition parties and, therefore, he had no right to convene any such meeting. The speaker was no more a non-partisan person, he added.
The PDM leader said the government had no policy to deal with the Covid-19 situation. “If the government has any policy, then bring it to the National Assembly.”
Meeting will be held as per schedule without opposition, says NA spokesman
When contacted, a spokesman for the NA speaker said the meeting would be held as per schedule despite the opposition’s boycott. He also refuted the opposition’s allegations against the speaker and termed them “factually incorrect”.
The National Assembly Secretariat has already issued an agenda for the meeting of the parliamentary committee which includes “matters relating to the session of the National Assembly due to Covid-19 and briefing on coronavirus disease”.
The spokesman said National Disaster Management Authority chairman Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal and senior officials of the National Command and Operation Centre had been invited to the meeting.
This will be the third occasion in the past six weeks that the opposition would boycott the meeting under the speaker.
Earlier, the speaker had to cancel the parliamentary leaders’ meeting which he convened on Nov 11 for “a briefing by military officials on the current issues of national security” after all opposition parties decided to stay away from it.
According to government sources, the main objective of the briefing was to make an effort to develop a national consensus on granting “provisional provincial status” to strategically-located Gilgit-Baltistan and 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.
At that time, the decision to boycott the meeting was announced by PDM’s information secretary Mian Iftikhar Hussain who accused the speaker of being biased and “suppressing the opposition’s voice in the assembly”. He had said that the government had failed to solve people’s problems and control price hike, adding that “the government, which has failed at every front, has become a real threat to the national security itself”.
The PDM alleges that the speaker has failed to run the assembly according to rules and parliamentary traditions and there is a “ban” on raising public issues in parliament.
Previously, the speaker had to cancel a meeting of the parliamentary leaders on Sept 28 which he had convened to discuss elections in Gilgit-Baltistan.
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had himself announced that his party would not become a part of any parliamentary committee under the speaker for his biased conduct during the last joint sitting of parliament on Sept 16.
In their joint declaration issued after the Sept 20 multiparty conference in Islamabad, the opposition parties had stated that they would not cooperate with the government inside and outside parliament.
This will be the fifth meeting of the parliamentary committee headed by Speaker Asad Qaiser and comprising a number of political heavyweights.
Prominent members of the committee are Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Information Minister Shibli Faraz, Housing Minister Chaudhry Tariq Bashir Cheema, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, parliamentary leader of the PML-N in the National Assembly and Senate Khwaja Asif and Mushahidullah Khan, respectively, PPP’s Raja Pervez Ashraf and Sherry Rehman, Asad Mehmood and Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, chief of the Balochistan National Party Sardar Akhtar Mengal and Amir Haider Hoti of the Awami National Party.
Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar, Adviser to the PM on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan and Special Assistant to the PM on Health Dr Faisal Sultan are ex-officio members of the committee.
Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2020