• PTI lawmaker slams rulers for ‘refusing’ to purchase wheat from growers
• IPP leader says parties should ‘forgive and forget’
• NA sitting ends abruptly after unpleasant exchange between PTI’s Zartaj Gul, PML-Q’s Tariq Cheema

ISLAMABAD: The controversy over the import of wheat continued to echo in the National Assembly on Thursday, as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle slammed the government over the arrest of a large number of farmers’ leaders.

PPP’s Shazia Marri regretted that the raids and arrests had intensified a day after her party chairman spoke in the house against the ‘economic murder’ of farmers, and urged the government to accept their genuine demands. She called for bringing to an end the excesses against farmers.

Amir Dogar of the PTI said it was the first time in the country’s history that the government had refused to purchase wheat from farmers, which was highly condemnable. He refer­r­­ed to a convention organised by the gra­nd opposition in Faisalabad in support of farmers and said all kinds of protests will be staged aga­inst their economic strangulation. He assured the farmers that the PTI will not leave them in the lurch. “We will stand by the farmers,” he stressed.

‘Forgive and move forward’

Gul Asghar Khan of the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP) said in his speech all major political parties had committed mistakes in the past and, therefore, they should forgive each other and move forward.

The PTI’s Asif Khan said much is being talked about reconciliation, but first a conducive environment for talks must be created.

He said that reconciliation was the need of the hour and the political forces must work together in the national interest instead of indulging in mudslinging against each other.

He said even after the general election and by-elections, PTI was not being allowed to hold a rally anywhere in Punjab, and when such a request is made, its leaders down to the union council level are picked up and detained.

Standing committees

Earlier, PML-N leader Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhary informed the National Assembly that the work on formation of standing committees has been completed.

He said that there was a slight delay in the process due to a decision to suspend the membership of members on reserved seats. He said NA Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq had set a deadline for completion of the standing committee process by 4pm on Friday.

At the outset of the proceedings, the NA speaker expressed his anger over the absence of ministers and failure of ministries to send briefs on the questions on the day’s agenda. Noting that the NA proceedings were not being taken seriously, the Speaker adjourned the proceedings for 15 minutes and summoned three federal secretaries, including the secretary of interior, to his chambers.

Altercation

The house also witnessed chaotic scenes after a speech by PML-Q MNA Tariq Bashir Cheema for allegedly threatening and using abusive language against PTI lawmaker Zartaj Gul.

PPP MNA Shehla Raza, who was presiding over the proceedings at the time, found herself helpless in controlling the situation and fearing an imminent physical clash, abruptly adjourned the sitting till Friday morning (today).

It all started when Mr Cheema, who had been interrupted by some opposition members, including Ms Gul, went to the opposition benches to exchange words with PTI MNA Ali Muhammad Khan.

When he was returning to his seat, Ms Gul passed a remark which made Mr Cheema angry, and he went to Ms Gul’s seat and was seen whispering something in her ear.

Members belonging to the PTI-SIC were seen rushing tow­a­rds the treasury benches, some of them even running over benches to physically attack Mr Cheema, who was escorted out by some treasury MNAs.

As soon as he returned to his seat and the chair gave floor to another MNA for the speech, the opposition members started gathering in front of the speaker’s dais and lodged a strong protest, alleging that Mr Cheema had used very objectionable and abusive language and demanded action against him.

Later, PTI lawmakers went to the speaker’s chamber and demanded suspension of Mr Cheema’s membership. Informed sources told Dawn Speaker Ayaz Sadiq called Mr Cheema, who turned up and later apologised to Ms Gul.

Talking to media, the PTI members, including party’s chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, confirmed the development, stating that Ms Gul had accepted the apology. However, Mr Khan declared that they would move a motion on Friday seeking Mr Cheema’s suspension till the remainder of the ongoing session.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2024

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