• Lawmakers object to ‘pomp and show’ during economic crunch, floods
• Assembly passes two bills amid lack of quorum
• Soomro de-notified by ECP

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly session on Monday was dominated by empty chairs as lack of quorum marred the proceedings in which the federal government was censured for ‘Independence Day extravaganza’ amid economic crunch and devastation caused by the floods.

The first sitting of the last parliamentary year of the present assembly saw a verbal altercation between Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Grand Democratic Alliance’s (GDA) Saira Bano. The opposition lawmaker objected to the pomp and show on Independence Day at a time when ‘the people of Balochistan were drowning in floods’.

She regretted the message sent to the people of Balo­ch­is­tan by spending millions of rupees on lighting and decoration. The amount should have been deposited in the flood relief account set up by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, suggested Ms Bano.

Highlighting the economic hardships faced by the people, the GDA member also pointed out an incident in Fai­sal­abad’s Dijkot village where a man hanged himself after mur­dering his two daughters for being unable to pay the house rent.

However, her speech was interrupted by the speaker when she objected to the use of the term zinda qoum (vibrant nation).

“Do not talk like this. The 220 million people [are] form a vibrant nation. You are committing an excess by calling the Pakistani people a dead nation,” said Mr Ashraf. When the speaker refused to allow her to continue the speech, she pointed out a lack of quorum, forcing the speaker to order a headcount.

Later, the speaker prorogued the session, which had begun on July 27, after declaring the house not in order due to lack of quorum for which the presence of a minimum of 86 members (one-fourth of the total 342-member house) was required.

Earlier, speaking on points of order, Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Muhammad Jamaluddin of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) also castigated the government for organising a musical event on Aug 14. The two lawmakers objected to the dancing of young girls and children during a ceremony in the presence of the prime minister.

Before the session was prorogued, the assembly passed the Pakistan Tobacco Board (Amendment) Bill 2022 and the Inter-Governmental Commercial Transactions Bill 2022 aimed at providing a mechanism to carry out commercial transactions under inter-governmental framework to promote, attract and encourage foreign states to have economic and business relations with Pakistan.

In a separate development, the Election Commission of Pakistan on Monday de-notified Muhammad Mian Soomro as member of the National Assembly.

The seat of the PTI lawmaker was declared vacant on Aug 10 by the speaker due to his forty days’ consecutive absence from the sittings of the House.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2022

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