ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on the opening day of its budget session on Monday witnessed the treasury and the opposition members indulged in a blame-game over the frequent train accidents as the lower house passed 10 bills, most of them in the absence of opposition members.
The sitting was marred by noisy protest, frequent walkouts and repeated pointing out of quorum by the opposition members after two federal ministers, as usual, started blaming the previous PML-N and PPP governments for the Ghotki train accident.
The opposition members gathered in front of the dais of Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri and raised anti-government slogans when he allowed Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry to continue a political speech in which he hit out at the opposition leadership, including Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari, over their alleged corruption and trying to get a bargain on their corruption cases.
The minister was responding to speeches made by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and PML-N stalwart Ahsan Iqbal in which they sought resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Railway Minister Azam Swati over the Ghotki incident.
The opposition members through sloganeering and desk-thumping also interrupted Minister for Communications Murad Saeed.
It was during these noises that Adviser to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan presented the controversial Elections (Second Amendment) Ordinance 2021 allowing the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to procure electronic voting machines (EVMs) for the next general elections.
Members of the MQM also protested over the Sunday’s rioting in Bahria Town Karachi by activists of Sindh nationalist parties and its member Ali Mohammad Khan warned of a “strong reaction” if such an incident was repeated.
MQM’s Sabir Qaimkhani and Usama Qadri lashed out at the Sindh government over the incident and alleged that the police remained a silent spectator.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari asked the chair to defer the agenda and allow a debate on the incident, saying the session was being held at a time when the rescue work was still going on at the site.
The differences between the PPP and the PML-N also became visible in the house when PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal criticised the chair for giving floor to the PPP chairman, saying being the largest opposition party it was his right to get the floor first.
And when Mr Bhutto Zardari took the floor again, he hit out at Mr Iqbal and the PML-N and termed him an “office-bearer only on papers.”
Mr Iqbal said the PTI had now been ruling the country for three years and still it said the Ghotki train accident had happened because the PML-N government had done nothing for the improvement of the railways.
He said it was during the PML-N tenure in 2017 that Pakistan and China had signed the ML-1 project. He said three years had passed but there had been no progress on the project. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry first read out the preliminary report of the train accident and started political attacks on the opposition.
“Today we are facing (train) accidents due to the negligence of years,” he said. The house passed 10 bills, including the University of Islamabad Bill, the Privatisation Commission (Amendment) Bill, Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights (Amendment) Bill, Protection of Communal Properties of Minorities (Amendment) Bill, and Islamabad Capital Territory Charities Registration, Regulation and Facilitation Bill 2020.
Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2021