ISLAMABAD: Government members and lawmakers belonging to the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) nearly got into a fight on the floor of the National Assembly on Monday after the opposition parties criticised the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government for capitulating to the religious parties protesting against the acquittal of Christian blasphemy convict, Aasia Bibi.
The melee ensued after PPP lawmaker Shazia Marri termed the agreement finalised between the government and protesters as a “surrender document”, and in a taunting reference to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s surname (Niazi), compared the deal to the surrender document signed by Gen AAK Niazi that led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan objected to Marri’s remarks and asked her to refrain from ridiculing an entire clan for an individual’s act. He said it was true that Gen Niazi had surrendered before Indian troops in 1971 but there are other Niazis who are “rendering great services and sacrifices for the nation”.
NA Speaker Asad Qaiser intervened in the matter, warning that no lawmaker would be allowed to ridicule any tribe or clan in their speeches. However, when Marri insisted she was actually mentioning the name of Gen Niazi and that she would continue to do so, a number of treasury members stood up and lodged a noisy protest to prevent the PPP lawmaker from continuing her speech.
Meanwhile, PPP’s Syed Rafiullah and PTI’s Abdul Majeed Khan exchanged some hot words.
Hearing Khan’s remarks, Rafiullah charged towards the PTI MNA but he was stopped by a number of lawmakers. The NA speaker called the sergeants-at-arms to expel both members from the House. However, after failing to control the situation, he adjourned the sitting till Tuesday morning.
NA Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif, who was brought to the session by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials, deferred his address due to the commotion and is now expected to address the House on Tuesday.
Earlier, while addressing a meeting of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) parliamentary party, Shehbaz said that the opposition had played a positive role during the recent sit-ins by religious activists.
He claimed that although the PTI had exploited occasions like these for “political gains”, the current opposition prioritised national interest instead of doing politics on the issue.
In a statement issued after the meeting, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said the meeting had taken stock of the overall political, economic and internal security situation of the country and deliberated upon a strategy for the future.
The PML-N members also criticised as an “unparliamentary act” the adjournment of the session on Friday after a lawmaker pointed out lack of quorum five minutes after it started.
“The way the government ended the session in such a sensitive situation by pointing out the [lack of] quorum shows the government lacks the ability and courage to deal with challenges,” the statement read.
The adjournment of Friday’s NA session considerably irked the opposition, which had already expressed its disappointment a day earlier over Prime Minister Khan’s absence from the Lower House at a time when the country was facing nationwide protests by religious groups.
Soon after a recitation from the Holy Quran, Agha Hassan of the Balochistan National Party (Mengal) had pointed out lack of quorum. Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri subsequently ordered a head count and then adjourned the session till Monday after finding that the quorum was not complete.
The opposition later used the adjournment of the assembly as a pretext to refuse a meeting with a government delegation that had requested bipartisan support for a parliamentary resolution against the protesters.