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Autonomy controversy mars Senate proceedings

May 09, 2012


Senator Raza Rabbani. — Photo by APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Wednesday witnessed an embarrassing situation for the treasury benches and the government when the coalition partners and opposition walked out of the House leaving it without quorum.

The chairman had to suspend the proceedings for 30 minutes when the quorum could not be maintained even after ringing the bells for five minutes in a house where the ruling coalition is in clear majority.

The opposition parties taking the advantage of the situation and to score political advantage also walked out on the issue of continuing the immunisation programs by the federal government.

The Awami National Party (ANP), one of the strong coalition partners of the government, had been more vocal than the others on the issue of provincial autonomy. After the issue of DRA lingered on as the law minister was not available to submit the government version, a fresh question on the immunisation programs once again invited the reaction of the coalition partners as well as the opposition parties.

ANP's Senator Zahid Khan was again the first one to draw the attention of the chair towards the provinces rights and pleaded that all health related subjects should rest with the provinces.

Chairman Nayyer Hussain Bokhari repeatedly advised the members to give government also a chance to present its view point.

But, the situation turned more interesting when Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani joined the chorus and forcefully arguing that the subject under discussion should rest with the provinces after the 18th amendment.

Rabbani remained stick to his argument despite repeated requests by the chair to wait for the law minister to know the government view point that also led to counter arguments between him and the chairman.

The quorum was pointed out twice and both the times it was Senator Zahid Khan to do it. The chair announced after first counting that the house was in order. But, Zahid Khan objected it and persuaded some other colleagues to walk out. Then, he again pointed out the quorum and this time he was successful and the house was not found in order. The chairman then adjourned the proceedings for 30 minutes that was debating at that time the presidential address to the joint sitting of the parliament.

After the break when the house resumed proceedings, the chairman remarked he never said that the matter will not be taken up but it was unfortunate that the members walked out and the house resumed debate on presidential address.