Coalition govt fails to run NA despite no clear opposition

Published May 18, 2022
A view of the National Assembly from Tuesday's session. — Photo courtesy NA Twitter
A view of the National Assembly from Tuesday's session. — Photo courtesy NA Twitter

ISLAMABAD: The five-week-old coalition government under Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is not only struggling on the economic front but keeping parliament functional has also become an enormous challenge for it.

This became evident again on Tuesday when Acting Speaker Zahid Akram Durrani had to adjourn the National Assembly sitting only five minutes after recitation from the Holy Quran, playing of national anthem and approval of leave applications due to lack of quorum without taking up the 182-point heavy agenda on the private member’s day.

When the house was adjourned to meet again on Friday morning, only 25 to 30 members, including two federal ministers, were present in the 342-member lower house of the parliament.

The quorum was pointed out by Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali, the lone Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) member in the assembly, while protesting over the absence of the ministers and the treasury members from the house.

Acting speaker adjourns sitting within minutes due to lack of quorum

“What kind of scenes are we watching?” said the JI MNA while pointing towards the empty treasury benches.

“There was a great enthusiasm when you people were bringing the no-confidence motion [against the then prime minister Imran Khan]. Where has that passion gone now?” he asked, describing the situation as an “insult” to parliament and pointing out a lack of quorum.

The lack of interest and absenteeism had also marred the proceedings of the National Assembly on May 13 when Mr Durrani adjourned the sitting due to a lack of quorum even without completing the question hour.

Before adjourning the house at that time, Mr Durrani issued a ruling and urged ministers and senior officials of the ministries to ensure their presence during the house proceedings. He categorically declared that he would not allow the house to be run on the pattern of the previous three years under the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government.

Since the beginning of the current session on May 10, the lower house of the parliament without an opposition leader has mostly been run without a quorum. This is the first regular session of the National Assembly after the coalition government under Mr Sharif took office last month and both Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and his deputy have been struggling to keep the parliament functional in the wake of mass resignations of 123 PTI members following the success of the no-confidence resolution against Imran Khan.

Having no serious business to do, both Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and his deputy have been running the house by allowing the members to deliver lengthy speeches and speak on issues of their choice on points of order.

Taking advantage of the situation, the members have also adopted a new strategy of using the quorum as a weapon to get the floor, threatening that otherwise they will point out a lack of quorum.

The delay in the nomination of the new opposition leader has also rendered the house incomplete.

The House Business Advisory Committee earlier decided to continue the current session until May 20, which means that Friday would be the last sitting of the session.

The National Assembly is expected to go into the budget session in the first week of June and Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who is currently on an official visit to Azerbaijan to attend the third General Conference of the Parliamentary Assembly of Economic Cooperation Organisation, has yet to start verifying the resignations of PTI lawmakers, who announced to quit the assembly last month when Mr Sharif was elected as prime minister.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2022

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