ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Wednesday constituted a ‘council of senior parliamentarians’ for “promoting democratic and parliamentary norms across the party divide line”.
According to a statement issued by the National Assembly Secretariat, the speaker has formally notified the formation of the 15-member council and its terms of reference (TORs). The speaker will himself head the council whereas NA secretary Tahir Hussain will act as its secretary.
“The TORs of the council include promotion of established parliamentary norms and to encourage the young parliamentarians to participate in the proceedings of the house,” it says, adding that “the council will also ensure issue-based debate and avoidance of any sexist, religious or ethnic slogans during the proceedings of the House.”
The council will also guide and assist the chair in implementing democratic norms in the house.
The members of the council are Syed Fakhar Imam, Shafqat Mahmood and Pervaiz Khattak of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI); Dr Fehmida Mirza of the Grand Democratic Alliance; Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui (Muttahida Qaumi Movement); Khalid Hussain Magsi (Balochistan Awami Party); Chaudhry Tariq Bashir Cheema (Pakistan Muslim League-Q); Rana Tanveer Hussain, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Chaudhry Mahmood Bashir Virk (PML-N); Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Aftab Shaaban Mirani (Pakistan Peoples Party); Shahida Akhtar Ali of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal and Sardar Akhar Mengal of his own faction of the Balochistan National Party.
Opposition sticks to its decision to boycott committees under Qaiser
Talking to Dawn, PPP secretary general Farhatullah Khan Babar expressed surprise over the speaker’s move and claimed that his party had not been consulted before formation of the so-called council. He alleged that the speaker had lost the trust of the members of parliament and, therefore, the opposition believed that he had no right to constitute committees on his own.
Mr Babar said the opposition parties had already decided to boycott all the committees under the speaker due to his alleged biased conduct during the proceedings of the house and that they were still sticking to their earlier decision. However, he said, the issue could be discussed in the next meeting of the heads of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in Islamabad on March 15.
Sources in the government told Dawn that the speaker had formed the council following the incidents of scuffle and ruckus during the assembly session last month. They said the speaker had taken the step to form the council as he had been facing difficulties in running the house in a smooth manner due to aggressive behaviour from both the treasury and the opposition members.
The speaker had also regretted the manhandling of the PML-N leaders by the PTI activists outside the Parliament House on March 6 when Prime Minister Imran Khan was securing the vote of trust in the assembly, stating that the incident would be thoroughly probed. There was, however, no mention in the speaker’s statement whether he would hold the investigation through a parliamentary committee, the interior ministry or some other institution.
Earlier, the speaker finding himself helpless had already taken notice of such incidents on the assembly’s floor and had even issued letters to four MNAs, including two from the PTI, seeking an explanation, but there has been no progress on it.
The opposition parties had previously boycotted at least four meetings of various parliamentary committees under Mr Qaiser since September last year when PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had himself announced that his party would not become a part of any parliamentary committee under the speaker.
In November, the speaker had presided over a meeting of the Special Parliamentary Committee on Coronavirus Disease without the opposition which remained confined to a mere briefing and presentation of the statistical data about the pandemic.
Before this, the speaker had to cancel the parliamentary leaders’ meeting which he had convened on Nov 11 for “a briefing by military officials on the current issues of national security” after all the opposition parties decided to stay away from it. Similarly, Mr Qaiser had cancelled a meeting of the parliamentary leaders in September which he had convened to discuss elections in Gilgit-Baltistan.
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 said he was “suppressing the opposition’s voice in the assembly”.
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.
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 the parliament.
Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2021