ISLAMABAD: Three weeks before coalition government’s tenure ends, the lawmakers instead of raising public issues on Monday consumed most of their time in the National Assembly protesting over the delay in the issuance of arms licences and the non-cooperative attitude of the bureaucracy.

The strong protest by members, including allies in the ruling coalition, compelled Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf to direct the interior secretary to issue arms licences within a week to lawmakers who had applied for it and completed all formalities.

Even Parliamentary Secretary for Interior Mohammad Sajjad, who belongs to the ruling PML-N, lodged a strong protest, stating that he was also unable to meet the interior minister. Mr Sajjad said he had been unable to get the minister’s signatures on his own file, stating that he had seen the members wandering in the corridors of the ministry for hours waiting for the interior minister.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif not only endorsed the lawmakers’ demand, but stated that every citizen of the country needed arms because of the deteriorating security situation in the country.

Mr Asif blasted the Punjab police over failure to improve law and order in katcha area at the border with Sindh, stating that authorities have failed to establish peace despite the ongoing operation for the past three months or so. Instead, he said, the crime has increased in the area.

He said keeping in view the law and order situation and terrorism, every citizen wanted to keep arms for protection and security.

The issue was raised on a point of order by PPP MNA Ghulam Mustafa Shah, who is also the head of a special committee on the issue of arms licences, when he protested over the absence of Interior Minster Rana Sanaullah and other officials of the ministry from the committee’s meeting earlier in the day.

The PPP member said they knew many tactics to disrupt the parliamentary proceedings, including pointing out quorum, but they were not doing it as they did not want to spoil the atmosphere at a time when the government was about to complete its term. He asked the speaker to adjourn the session till the time the government came up with some assurance.

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq tried to pacify the agitated lawmaker and said he had talked to Mr Sanaullah and he had promised to clear the backlog and that he would be available in Islamabad on Tuesday.

Earlier, some lawmakers, including Minister for Education Rana Tanvir, complained about the non-cooperative attitude of bureaucrats and hit out at the speaker over failure to make them comply with his directives.

At this, Mr Ashraf became angry, saying it was the government’s responsibility to implement his rulings.

“If you are in the government then you should suspend the secretary and appoint a new secretary. You have to establish the writ of the government,” he said while addressing the defence minister.

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2023

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