ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser has issued a letter to senior vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi over his alleged misbehavior and disrespect to the chair during the house proceedings on Tuesday, asking him to apologise within seven days or face action.

Mr Abbasi, on the other hand, not only refused to tender the apology, but declared that the speaker must apologise to members of the National Assembly for his alleged partisan conduct.

Another opposition party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), also criticised the speaker, saying “he has lost moral authority to stay in office due to his partial conduct”.

“Taking notice of the continuous misbehaviour and disregard of the chair and accepted parliamentary norms, a letter on the direction of the speaker of the National Assembly has been issued to MNA Shahid Khaqan Abbasi under Rule 21 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the National Assembly (NA) 2007,” says an official handout issued by the NA Secretariat.

Abbasi says speaker must apologise to legislators for his ‘partisan’ conduct

It says that Mr Abbasi has been informed that “he disregarded the chair and the accepted parliamentary norms, especially on 20th April 2021 while a very important business was being transacted in the house”.

The speaker, it says, “is of the view that Mr Abbasi had eroded/disregarded the authority of the chair and by such act the smooth running of the proceedings of the assembly was obstructed”.

It further accuses Mr Abbasi of “ridiculing the chair”.

The PML-N leader has been asked to tender an apology and explain his position within seven days of receipt of the letter as to why action under Rule 21 shall not be taken against him.

“If a reply is not received within such time, it will be presumed that he has no explanation to offer,” the letter concludes.

Rule 21 says: “The Speaker may, if he deems it necessary, name a member who disregards the authority of the Speaker or abuses these rules by consistently and willfully obstructing the business of the Assembly.

“(2) If a member is so named by the Speaker, he shall forthwith put the question that the member (naming him) be suspended from the service of the Assembly for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session: Provided that the Assembly may, at any time, on a motion made, resolve that such suspension be terminated.”

Mr Qaiser and Mr Abbasi had a verbal clash during the crucial and tense sitting of the National Assembly on Tuesday when the opposition members had gathered in front of the speaker’s dais to protest his act of approving a motion moved by a government minister seeking formation of a committee to further deliberate upon the resolution on the issue of the expulsion of the French ambassador from the country over publication of blasphemous caricatures.

“You always behave like this. Mind your language and stay in your limits,” the speaker told Mr Abbasi when he was shouting at him for not giving the opposition an opportunity to speak.

“You don’t feel ashamed while making it [the issue] controversial. I will take my shoe off and hit you,” Mr Abbasi was heard saying to the speaker who later gave him the floor. The PML-N leader was also heard asking Mr Qaiser “to learn how to run the House”.

Later in his speech, Mr Abbasi further attacked the speaker, accusing him of bulldozing the proceedings, saying that the entire country was “unanimous” on the Namoos-i-Risalat issue, but the speaker had made it controversial in the House.

“You have paralysed this House for three years and turned it into an arena of abuse and cursing,” he had alleged.

When contacted, Mr Abbasi again “ridiculed” the speaker for issuing him the letter.

“Respect is earned by a speaker through his actions,” he said.

Mr Abbasi recalled that he had worked as parliamentarian under so many speakers but had never spoken loudly. The PML-N leader said he had never seen a speaker who was not “respected” even by the treasury members. Previously, he said, the members used to stand up in respect of the speaker upon his arrival, but it was not happening now and even the treasury members kept on sitting when he arrived.

“Is the speaker a serious person?” he put a counter question, when asked why he was not taking the issue seriously.

Referring to Tuesday’s incident, he said, such things happened in parliaments all over the world. He said they came to the parliament only “to speak” and what could they do if they were not even allowed to do so.

Meanwhile, PPP secretary general Nayyar Bokhari in a statement also lashed out at the speaker for running the house like a PTI activist.

Mr Bokhari, whose party had boycotted the Tuesday’s sitting of the assembly, said it was because of the “partial attitude” of the speaker that unpleasant incidents were reported from the assembly during every sitting.

“The speaker has lost the moral authority to stay in the office. It is on the record that the PPP has been condemning the partial behavior of the speaker from day one,” said Mr Bokhari, who had also served as the Senate chairman.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2021

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