ISLAMABAD: It was another unproductive day in the National Assembly on Wednesday as Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri had to once again adjourn the sitting soon after the Question Hour without taking up other agenda items due to lack of quorum.
The quorum was pointed out by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) MNA Abdul Shakoor after the opposition members staged a silent walkout as soon as Mr Suri gave the floor to ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA from Islamabad Raja Khurram Shahzad Nawaz to move a calling attention notice on “collection of television fee from mosques” soon after the Question Hour.
The National Assembly, which has been in session for over a month merely to fulfill a constitutional requirement of holding at least 130 sittings in a parliamentary year completing today (Thursday), has so far failed to do any useful business as almost all its previous sittings ended abruptly due to lack of quorum for which the presence of one-fourth (86 MNAs) of the 342-member house is required. On Tuesday, the National Assembly had failed to take up the legislative agenda due to the absence of ministers.
Despite the fact that the government has succeeded in holding the 130 mandatory sittings, the deputy speaker had to convene the session on Thursday (today) to dispose of the “motion of thanks” to President Dr Arif Alvi for “his address to both houses (of parliament) assembled together on August 20, 2020.”
This is perhaps for the first time in the country’s parliamentary history that the members of the assembly failed to hold the debate on the mandatory presidential address for the whole year.
House in session to fulfill constitutional requirement of holding at least 130 sittings in parliamentary year
The motion remained on the agenda of the assembly almost throughout the year and only few treasury and the opposition members took part in the debate. Interestingly, during the debate which was opened by parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the absence of Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif, no member mentioned anything from the speech delivered by the president.
The presidential address to the joint sitting of the parliament will again become due from Friday. Under the Constitution, the parliamentary year of the National Assembly begins with the president’s address to the joint sitting.
During the Question Hour, the opposition members protested over replies given by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan in which he as usual blamed the past two governments for the poor economic situation being faced by the country, particularly in the field of agriculture.
When the opposition members criticised the government over its decision to import wheat and sugar and poor cotton crop, the minister said it was because of the wrong policies of the previous two governments in the past 10 years that the government had not been able to meet the target of cotton crops.
When the minister said that the government was confronting powerful mafias, PPP’s Raja Pervez Ashraf asked him to tell the names of the mafia people who had become more powerful than the government.
Ali Mohammad Khan asked Mr Ashraf to find the mafia people in Larkana (the PPP’s stronghold and hometown of the Bhuttos) and Raiwind (residence of the Sharif family) and compare the number of sugar mills owned by his party leaders before and after coming into power.
The opposition members protested over the minister’s response and asked the deputy speaker to tell him to give specific replies to their questions instead of delivering political speeches.
The minister, however, said being a politician he would give political replies to political questions.
Earlier, in response to a question asked by Naveed Aamir Jeeva, Minister for Water Resources Moonis Elahi, in a written reply, informed the house that the installed capacity of Diamer-Bhasha Dam would be 4,500mw, which would generate electricity of 18,100 GWh annually.
In response to another question asked by MNA Aslam Khan, the minister told the assembly that the Supreme Court was custodian of the “Prime Minister and Chief Justice of Pakistan Fund for Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dam”.
Quoting information obtained from the court’s official website, the minister said the court had reinvested over Rs12.931 billion in the “three-month market treasury bills” out of the total collected amount of Rs12.934bn. He said Wapda had not taken any amount from this fund.
Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2021