LAHORE: The proposal to boycott the National Assembly session on Tuesday was turned down by an overwhelming majority of PML-N lawmakers who said any such decision might have serious repercussions for them in their constituencies, Dawn learnt on Wednesday.
“After the PPP’s boycott of the parliamentary session called on the issue of the French envoy’s expulsion from Pakistan over the publication of blasphemous caricatures in line with an ‘agreement’ with the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), some PML-N leaders had proposed staying away from it (the session) letting the struggling PTI to handle the issue it had created because of its own follies. But when the matter was discussed in the parliamentary party meeting, an overwhelming majority of party MNAs strongly opposed the proposal, saying any such decision may have serious implications in their constituencies,” a PML-N lawmaker who attended the meeting told Dawn.
PPP hints at returning to the house
“Even most of them were eager to speak on the matter on the floor of the house, pressing the leadership to forward their names in this respect,” he said. The PML-N leader further said it might be easy for the PPP to go for a boycott of the NA session on this matter as it did not have much political stakes in Punjab. “But the PML-N cannot afford this having a large vote bank in province which is emotionally charged on this matter,” he said and added seeing the lawmakers so charged the senior leaders in the meeting conveyed their sentiments to the party leadership (here and abroad) that gave a go-ahead to attend the session.
“There was a view point in the party too that after the PPP’s boycott, if the PML-N followed suit, it would be difficult for Prime Minister Imran Khan to hide behind the parliament over this matter. Whatever the decision the treasury had taken on the matter in the absence of the opposition the onus would have been on the ruling PTI,” he said.
On social media, there was also criticism on the PML-N for deciding to attend the NA session, even some termed it “rescuing Imran Khan” after his government committed a blunder in handling the TLP matter. When a comment was sought from PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb over her party’s decision to be part of NA proceedings over the resolution to expel French ambassador, she said: “Namoos-e-Risalat is very close to the heart of every Muslim and every Pakistani. It is an issue which is beyond politics and point scoring in Parliament.”
She further said: “We are representatives of the people of Pakistan; and articulate their thoughts and feelings in parliament. The PML-N feels it would be wrong, despite the hypocrisy of the government, to abstain from the National Assembly when Tahafuz Namoos-e-Risalat was under discussion in the House.”
Earlier, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had announced boycotting the ongoing NA session saying in a tweet: “Agreement wasn’t brought to NA, Govt took action on streets, then banned, people killed, over 500 policemen injured, closed internet, PM didn’t make statement in NA, didn’t take NA into confidence at any stage. Now PTI wants to hide behind NA. It’s your mess PM, clean up or go home.”Meanwhile, the PPP has hinted at joining the ongoing NA session. “We may join the ongoing session of the parliament after coming to know what the PTI has brought forth on the issue,” Punjab PPP Secretary General Chaudhry Manzoor said.
Talking to Dawn, he said the PPP had asked PML-N to boycott the Tuesday’s session to wait and see what the resolution PTI had tabled in the House. “We are wondering the resolution has no mention of the people killed in the violent clashes in Lahore and elsewhere and who is responsible for their blood. The government is holding talks with the banned organisation and releasing it’s members. Besides it did not also present the earlier agreement it had signed with the TLP,” Mr Manzoor said.
Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2021