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Changing moods in NA signal exhaustion

November 16, 2012

A view of the National Assembly. — File photo

ISLAMABAD, Nov 15: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf went from desk to desk across the aisle in the National Assembly on Thursday in an apparent charm offensive before an important legislation is to come before the house, but seemed hardly able to spur a poorly populated house.

Only four days into the present winter session and four months remaining in the present assembly’s life, most lawmakers on both sides of the political divide seemed exhausted and disinterest in the business of the house.

But the prime minister’s arrival during the question hour sprung several of them to engage in a disgusting unparliamentary activity that has gained currency from the days of the previous Musharraf-era assembly and has persisted against repeated warnings from the chair during more than four-and-a-half years of the present assembly.

PPP lawmaker Yasmeen Rehman repeatedly called for “order in the house” as lawmakers would crowd the prime minister carrying files and seeking his signature on papers whose contents could not be known to witnesses from the galleries. But she had little success.

The frequency of Mr Ashraf’s presence in the house since he assumed the office in June has been no match to that of his predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, and his Thursday’s appearance in the house, came ahead of a new accountability law the government is likely to ask the house to pass on Monday.

The leader of opposition, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, has also rarely come to house after Mr Gilani’s removal, contributing to low attendance on the opposition benches, and has yet to appear in the present session. But he has been compensating his absence from the house by more news-making statements from his chamber in the Parliament House or in front of television cameras outside the building such as his about his proposed names for a caretaker prime minister who must oversee the next election, strong views of his PML-N about the new accountability law and his views against a recent Supreme Court order that the FIA investigate the 1990 fund-distribution by intelligence agencies among politicians.

After three years of haggling, mainly between the ruling Pakistan People’s Party and the PML-N, the National Accountability Commission Bill was approved by the bipartisan house Standing Committee on Law and Justice on Wednesday and the draft is likely to be taken up by the house on Monday.