GDA, PML-N trade barbs in NA over handling of long march

Published May 25, 2022
Grand Democratic Alliance's Dr Fehmida Mirza (L) and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif (R) speak during the National Assembly session on Tuesday. — Photo via NA of Pakistan
Grand Democratic Alliance's Dr Fehmida Mirza (L) and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif (R) speak during the National Assembly session on Tuesday. — Photo via NA of Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday witnessed a verbal clash between Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Dr Fehmida Mirza of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) when the latter blasted the government for its decision to use force to block Imran Khan-led long march towards Islamabad and launching of crackdown on activists and members of the formerly ruling PTI in different parts of Punjab.

PML-N leader Khawaja Asif forcefully defended the cabinet’s decision not to allow the participants of the long march to enter Islamabad, alleging that the PTI had planned “armed invasion” of the capital.

The members of the lower house of parliament saw the two members making some personal attacks against each other during their speeches as Deputy Speaker Zahid Durrani allowed lawmakers to deliver lengthy speeches on points of order.

It all started when taking the floor on a point of order Dr Mirza condemned police raids on the residences of PTI workers in Punjab and lashed out at the government for not allowing Mr Khan to lead the march.

Fehmida Mirza condemns police raids at residences of PTI leaders and workers in Punjab

She asked the government to have a big heart and allow the PTI to hold the march, stating that it was their democratic right.

The GDA member, who was a minister in the cabinet of Mr Khan, said there was anger among the people and, therefore, the government should restrain from aggression in dealing with the protesters. She said the government had already made the PTI march successful through its actions.

Taking the floor, the minister took the GDA member to task over what he called showing double standards in criticising police actions. He said those wailing over the raids should also have spoken when the house of PTI dissident Noor Alam had been raided and when police had entered Parliament Lodges and picked up MNAs at the time of the tabling of the no-trust move against the then PM.

The PML-N leader then hit out at Dr Mirza by indirectly mentioning her husband Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, who was once known to be a close associate of PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari and latter disclosed some “secrets” about the PPP leader after developing some differences. He criticised Dr Mirza over her rivalry with the PPP which, according to him, had given her respect by nominating her the National Assembly speaker.

The minister warned PTI workers against attempting to attack institutions and create anarchy. “We will not let Pakistan be blackmailed. If anyone tries to challenge the state for the sake of an individual’s ego and personal rule, then the state will show its constitutional face,” he said.

“One should have no misconception. If there will be an armed invasion on the city, which is a symbol of the federation, and if there will be an invasion on Pakistan’s security and federation, then it will be dealt with full force,” he declared.

He also criticised former interior minister Sheikh Rashid for inciting the public to resort to violence and terming it a “bloody march”. He alleged PTI activists had martyred an unarmed policeman in Lahore and said those who would challenge the writ of the state would not be spared.

The minister, however, condemned the police raid on the residence of retired Justice Nasira Javed Iqbal in search of her son PTI Senator Walid Iqbal and “apologised” to her over excesses, if committed by the police.

Dr Mirza said it was under the PML-N government that Mr Zardari had to spend 11 years in jail. She also recalled that once she had seen Shaheed Benazir Bhutto going out of the assembly hall with tears in her eyes only because of the speech delivered by the same minister at that time.

She held the present coalition government responsible for the present state of affair in the country.

Speaking on a point of order, Minister for Communications Asad Mahmood alleged that the PTI’s long march was foreign funded and the matter should be investigated.

The assembly will meet again at 4pm on Wednesday.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2022

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