ISLAMABAD: Two key debates went by the board as the National Assembly ended its spring session on Thursday before parliament is to secretly hear from the military on Friday on how Osama bin Laden lived in hiding in Abbottabad for an estimated five years and was killed in an undetected US commando raid.
The opposition demanded that questions and answers rather than briefing by top military officials take most of the unspecified time of the in-camera joint sitting of the two houses of parliament beginning at 3pm, and the government agreed to settle parameters of the exercise in a joint meeting of business advisory committees of the National Assembly and the Senate earlier on Friday.
But the government did not react to opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s demand that 15 to 20 senior media persons be also invited to the briefing behind closed doors and report its proceedings, before Acting Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi read out a presidential order proroguing the house without completing a debate on the May 2 killing of Al Qaeda chief and even taking up a scheduled debate on the prevailing energy crisis.
No explanation was immediately given for cutting short one debate and giving up the other, nor there was any objection raised by the opposition.
The session, which began on April 11, was adjourned on April 29 for nine days to prepare for the opposition-sought energy debate. But Osama’s killing overshadowed the proceedings as the session resumed on Monday, when Prime MinisterYousuf Raza Gilani promised a military briefing to a joint sitting of parliament, which was subsequently called by President Asif Ali Zardari for Friday.
Chauadhry Nisar, who had told the house on Monday his PML-N party would not attend the briefing if most of it were not open to media reporting, did not repeat the threat on Thursday though he said it “should not be an eyewash” and that “rather than long briefing (speeches by military officials), more time should be taken by questions and answers”.
There was also no echo in the house of Wednesday’s three-day deadline given by PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif to the government to constitute a judicial commission headed by the chief justice of the supreme court and including chief justices of high courts to probe the Abbottabad episode.
Despite an apparently confrontational stance taken by the PML-N on the issue, the house presented a congenial atmosphere marked by the unanimous passage of a government bill seeking to create an autonomous National Vocational and Technical Training Commission after the Minister in charge for Cabinet Secretariat, Syed Naveed Qamar, agreed to amendments proposed by PML-N’s Zahid Hamid to substitute or omit some words so the draft conformed to the devolution of the subject of education to provinces under the Eighteenth Amendment.
When the prime minister briefly came to the house at the fag end of the proceedings after chairing a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Defence, several PML-N members went to his desk to get some papers signed, and an opposition member from the party-less Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Mohammad Kamran Khan, who shouted insults at Interior Minister Rehman during Monday’s turmoil over the Osama episode, too slipped to a nearby seat for some unknown business and was seen being patted by the same minister.
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