Opposition won’t attend meeting of legislators’ panel today

Published March 22, 2021
“We are not living in a village where cases are decided through jirgas," says PML-N's Marriyum Aurangzeb. — AP/File
“We are not living in a village where cases are decided through jirgas," says PML-N's Marriyum Aurangzeb. — AP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Senior Parliamentarians Council (SPC) constituted by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser earlier this month with an aim to improve working environment in the house will hold its first meeting on Monday (today) as major opposition parties decided to stay away from its proceedings.

The meeting to be presided over by federal Minister for National Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam is scheduled to take up incident of opposition lawmakers’ manhandling by activists of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) outside the Parliament House on March 6 at a time when Prime Minister Imran Khan was securing the vote of confidence in the National Assembly.

When contacted, information secretary of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Marriyum Aurangzeb, said the party had decided not to attend the meeting in line with its previous decision to stay away from the committee to be formed by the speaker.

Ms Aurangzeb, who was also among those opposition members who were allegedly manhandled by the PTI activists, said it seemed that the speaker wanted to convene a jirga on the issue. She was of the view that since the incident had taken place in the vicinity of the Parliament House and the Parliament Lodges, the speaker should have taken a suo motu action if he really wanted to do justice.

“We are not living in a village where cases are decided through jirgas,” she added.

On the other hand, PPP’s Raja Pervez Ashraf, who is a member of the council, said that he had not so far received any directives from the party leadership regarding participation in the meeting. He, however, said the PPP would go with the decision of the combined opposition on the matter.

The 15-member bipartisan SPC was set up by the speaker on March 10 with a nine-point Terms of Reference (ToR), including promotion of parliamentary traditions based on mutual respect, rather than political affiliation and ensuring prevention of any untoward incident in the premises of the National Assembly and Parliament House and ensuring respect and adherence to rulings given by the chair while maintaining democratic values beyond political segregation”.

The speaker had last week referred the March 6 incident to the SPC for a probe for unearthing facts which led to the misbehaviour with lawmakers of the National Assembly.

At that time, the official announcement by the NA Secretariat had stated that the council would be headed by the speaker himself and it was required to submit its report within 15 days.

The speaker has convened the meeting despite the fact the opposition is yet to decide whether or not it should become a part of the council.

PPP secretary general Farhatullah Babar had stated that his party had not been consulted before formation of the council. He said the speaker had lost the trust of 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 committees under the speaker due to his biased conduct during proceedings of the house and that they were sticking to their earlier decision.

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 (PPP); Shahida Akhtar Ali of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal and Sardar Akhtar Mengal of the Balochistan National Party.

Sources in the government told Dawn that the speaker had formed the council following incidents of scuffle and ruckus during the assembly session last month. They said the speaker had taken the step 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.

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 speaker had also regretted the manhandling of the PML-N leaders by the PTI activists outside the Parliament House on March 6, stating that the incident would be thoroughly probed.

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 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.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2021

Opinion

Editorial

First steps
Updated 29 May, 2024

First steps

One hopes that this small change will pave the way for bigger things.
Rafah inferno
29 May, 2024

Rafah inferno

THE level of barbarity witnessed in Sunday’s Israeli air strike targeting a refugee camp in Rafah is shocking even...
On a whim
29 May, 2024

On a whim

THE sudden declaration of May 28 as a public holiday to observe Youm-i-Takbeer — the anniversary of Pakistan’s...
Afghan puzzle
Updated 28 May, 2024

Afghan puzzle

Unless these elements are neutralised, it will not be possible to have the upper hand over terrorist groups.
Attacking minorities
28 May, 2024

Attacking minorities

Mobs turn into executioners due to the authorities’ helplessness before these elements.
Persistent scourge
Updated 29 May, 2024

Persistent scourge

THE challenge of polio in Pakistan has reached a new nadir, drawing grave concerns from the Technical Advisory Group...