ISLAMABAD: A day after Prime Minister Imran Khan directed his ministers to respond in kind to the opposition, the treasury benches created ruckus in the National Assembly (NA), resulting in Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif’s third and another failed attempt to complete his speech on the Federal Budget 2019-20.
Sharif, also the president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), was unable to finish his speech as members of the federal government, as well as the opposition, continued to chant slogans and disrupt the decorum of the session.
Speaking on the floor of the House before the session was postponed, Shehbaz said that the PML-N had significantly improved the national economy during its five-year tenure.
“Economic growth rate was increased to 5.8 per cent from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rate of 3.3 per cent. It was a historical record in the last 13 years which was achieved in PML-N’s era,” he said.
The opposition leader, however, grilled over obliterating of word ‘prevarication’ from the NA proceeding following the order of NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri. He said that ‘prevarication’ is not a word which needs to be removed.
He further said that inflation rate was decreased up to 3 per cent which had stood at 12 per cent, whereas, a ‘revolution’ was brought in the system of education and health sectors.
“Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his team had ended load shedding and inducted 11,000 MW electricity to the National Grid,” he said, adding that the worst-ever load shedding had continued in former dictator General (r) Pervez Musharraf’s tenure.
Amid the chaos, Deputy Speaker Suri rebuked PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal and female members for shooting videos of the commotion on their phones.
“Even you, who has been a federal minister, are using a phone in the House. You would not use a mobile phone again as I am a speaker and I have been elected through votes to have an authority here,” he said.
Consequently, the deputy speaker had to summon lady staff to confiscate the mobile phones of the PML-N’s women members.
The deputy speaker adjourned the session for 20 minutes and told the lawmakers to resolve their issues before the session resumed. It is worth mentioning here that this was the fourth sitting of the ongoing session which was adjourned without any meaningful discussion on the budget.
The session resumed after two hours after both sides agreed in writing to let each other express their opinion, however tempers remained high and both sides continued to blame each other for the situation.
Addressing the House, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) senior leader Raja Pervez Ashraf lamented media reports that Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that he would not let production orders to be issued for arrested lawmakers.
“The speaker who is custodian of the house has an impartial role and the prime minister has undermined the position of the speaker,” said Ashraf.
“Under the rules of this House, speaker cannot refuse to issue the production orders for arrested MNAs during a budget session,” the former premier added.
Production order for incarcerated PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari should be issued, Ashraf demanded, adding that the former president has a right to represent his constituency in the House, he added.
PML-N leader Khawaja Asif, while addressing the session, deplored that parliament has never been that “weak in the history as it is today”.
Joining the chorus of the PPP, he also urged the speaker to issue the production order for the detained MNAs, saying during the tenure of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto the same order was issued for incumbent Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed. “The rules of production order did not even exist back then.”
Asif also decried that non-issuing of the production order is against the supremacy of democracy and disrespect of Parliament.
Interestingly, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM-Pakistan) – which is an ally of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the centre and strong critic of the PPP government in Sindh – also called for the speaker to issue production order for ex-president Zardari.
Other lawmakers including Fawad Chaudhry, Khursheed Shah and Ali Muhammad Khan also addressed the House after which the deputy speaker adjourned the session till Wednesday 10:30am.
PPP PROTESTS OUTSIDE’S SPEAKER’S OFFICE:
Meanwhile, lawmakers of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) continued their protest outside the office of the speaker over the non-issuance of production orders for PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari who was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) last week. However, the speaker was not present in his office at the time of the protest.
PPP Senator Sherry Rehman told the media that the government was “paralysing its own parliamentary system, adding that the Zardari was a member of the House and it was his right to attend the session to cast his vote.
BILAWAL MEETS SHEHBAZ:
Earlier, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, accompanied by former leader of the opposition Khursheed Shah and Sherry Rehman, met Shehbaz in the latter’s chambers to discuss opposition’s strategy for the ongoing budget session. PML-N leaders Rana Sanullah, Ayaz Sadiq, Rana Tanveer, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Khawaja Asif and Raja Zafarul Haq were present during the meeting and they also expressed concerns over the government’s refusal to issue Zardari’s production orders.
Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Bilawal said that government’s allies have also signed the letter written to NA speaker for issuance of Zardari’s production orders. “It would be a great injustice with the people of Nawabshah and North and South Waziristan if their elected representatives are not allowed to attend the budget session,” Bilawal said in reference to Zardari, Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir respectively, all of whom are currently under custody.