Speaker seeks nominations for panel on French envoy’s expulsion

Published April 23, 2021
National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Thursday sent letters to parliamentary leaders of all parties to suggest names or inclusion in the proposed special committee to take up the resolution on the issue of French envoy’s expulsion. — APP/File
National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Thursday sent letters to parliamentary leaders of all parties to suggest names or inclusion in the proposed special committee to take up the resolution on the issue of French envoy’s expulsion. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Thursday sent letters to parliamentary leaders of all parties having representation in the National Assembly to suggest names of their members for inclusion in the proposed special committee of the house to take up the resolution on the issue of French envoy’s expulsion from Pakistan, which was tabled in the assembly on April 20 in line with the ‘agreement’ that the government reached with the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).

The speaker has written the letters despite the fact that the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) had already opposed the formation of the committee and demanded that the debate on the resolution be held on the assembly floor so that every member could get a chance to speak.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which had boycotted the assembly proceedings when the resolution was tabled during an urgently called sitting, has decided to attend the National Assembly’s sitting on Friday (today), but the party has not yet decided about joining the proposed committee.

“We will take a decision on it when our members will assemble in the Parliament House on Friday (today) for the assembly session,” said PPP secretary general Farhatullah Babar, when contacted.

PML-N, JUI-F have opposed formation of committee; PPP to decide today

Talking to Dawn, PML-N’s senior vice president Shahid Khaqan Abbasi reiterated his party’s stance that there is no need for the formation of a special committee. He said the matter should be discussed in the committee of the whole house. He alleged that the speaker perhaps had no knowledge of the rules as a committee could not be constituted on a “private resolution”.

“The National Assembly Secretariat on the direction of Speaker Asad Qaiser today (Thursday) sought nominations for the special committee of National Assembly on resolution against blasphemous caricatures published in French magazine on 1st September, 2020,” says an official handout issued by the NA Secretariat.

“The special committee will consider resolution moved by MNA Amjid Ali Khan on April 20 in the session of the National Assembly,” says the handout.

On April 20, the government in a dramatic way had managed to present the resolution in the National Assembly on the issue of the French envoy’s expulsion from Pakistan on the demand of the banned TLP.

Speaker Asad Qaiser, however, had not put the resolution tabled by the PTI lawmaker from Mianwali as a private member’s agenda for a vote after the PML-N and the JUI-F lodged a strong protest over the government move to bring it to the house without prior consultation with them and demanded a full-fledged debate on the issue of Namoos-i-Risalat (the sanctity of the Prophet).

The PPP had boycotted the sitting that had been called on a short notice by the NA speaker while exercising his special powers after the ‘successful talks’ between the government and the leadership of the outlawed TLP in Lahore.

The PPP’s boycott decision was announced by party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari through his social media account on Twitter in which he had criticised the government for not taking parliament into confidence on the issue at any stage and accused the prime minister of “hiding behind the assembly”.

The house had witnessed rowdyism when the opposition members gathered in front of the speaker’s dais to protest his act of approving a motion moved by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan authorising him to constitute the special parliamentary committee having representation of all the parties to further deliberate on the resolution.

In their speeches, the opposition leaders later lashed out at the government for trying to bulldoze the proceedings while discussing such a sensitive matter of Namoos-i-Risalat. They also protested over the absence of Prime Minister Imran Khan from the house on such a crucial occasion.

The opposition also demanded that the government present the agreement it had signed with the TLP before the house. They said those ‘responsible for the bloodshed’ in the country during the last week must also be identified. The PML-N had also blasted the government for not ‘owning’ the resolution, saying that it should have been tabled by a government minister instead of a ‘private member’.

The PML-N has announced bringing its own draft of the resolution and for that purpose the party had written a letter to the government, seeking some clarifications and information about the recent incidents of violent protests in the country on the issue.

The resolution tabled in the assembly strongly condemns the publication of blasphemous caricatures by French magazine Charlie Hebdo in September last year and regrets the French president’s act of “encouraging the elements hurting the sentiments of hundreds of millions of Muslims in the name of freedom of expression”.

“This House demands that a debate should be held to discuss the issue of expelling the French envoy from the country and that all the European countries, especially France, should be apprised of the gravity of this matter,” says the resolution.

Besides, it stated: “The House demands that matters related to international relations should be decided by the state and no person, group or party can exert unnecessary and illegal pressure in this regard.”

The NA Secretariat on Thursday issued a nine-point agenda with routine government business for the Friday’s sitting with no mention of the resolution on the French envoy.

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2021

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