ISLAMABAD: As President Dr Arif Alvi is due to address a joint sitting of parliament on Monday marking the fourth parliamentary year of the National Assembly, opposition parties have threatened to boycott the session and stage protests in and outside the parliament house.
The opposition accuses the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government and the NA Speaker Asad Qaiser of violating the Constitution by not allowing a debate on the presidential address throughout the third parliamentary year that ended on Aug 13.
The protesting parties also lately condemned what they said the ruling party’s threats to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), its attempts to undermine the parliament and to place curbs on media.
As the mandatory presidential address, which has been due since the start of the fourth parliamentary year under Article 56(3) of the Constitution, is scheduled to begin in the evening, pandemonium is expected in the National Assembly. The opposition parties have already finalised their strategy to disrupt the proceedings during President Alvi’s address before staging a walkout and holding a demonstration outside the parliament house.
The third parliamentary year of the PTI government completed on August 13 with the new precedent that the National Assembly gave a ‘vote of thanks’ to the president for his last year’s address to the joint sitting of the parliament without debate.
Strangely enough, the due debate on the address of the president had remained on the agenda of the lower house of the parliament throughout the third parliamentary year, but it was wound up without any debate after only one opposition member belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Khawaja Asif had spoken on it.
Under a constitutional obligation, the president addresses a joint sitting of the parliament in the beginning of the parliamentary year after which a debate is conducted in the National Assembly to be closed by a minister followed by a vote of thanks to the president.
“It is the unique case in the parliamentary history of Pakistan that the vote of thanks is given on the address of the president without any debate,” said opposition lawmaker belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party Syed Naveed Qamar.
It was not the way the debate on the presidential address was closed, he complained. “We were expecting that any of the ministers will wind up the debate, but that did not happen,” he regretted.
Besides the boycott of joint session, the opposition has also planned to take part in a demonstration being staged by journalists outside the parliament building against what they said “curbs on media by the government”.
Earlier on Friday, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) — an alliance of some opposition parties — announced that it would boycott the joint sitting of parliament and join media workers’ protest outside the Parliament House on Sept 13.
The PDM executive committee in a meeting, chaired by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, had decided to boycott the joint sitting of the parliament and that the opposition parties would go to the Parliament on the day and hold a protest before boycotting the session.
Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2021