The National Assembly Tuesday witnessed another day of commotion and chaos, as the opposition members resorted to sloganeering and whistle-blowing, causing an early end of proceedings.
The protest started after Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri refused to give floor to the PML-N parliamentary leader Khawaja Asif to speak on the arrest of Captain (R) Muhammad Safdar, who is also an ex-member of the House. Instead, the chair preferred to take up the order of the private members’ day.
Chaos at the National Assembly
The opposition members kept on hurling papers, sometimes in the form of paper airplanes, at the speaker’s dais, raised full-throated antigovernmental slogans and surrounded Suri momentarily, keeping the sergeants-at-arms standing alert beside him almost throughout the proceedings. Holding placards in their hands, the opposition members, mostly women, chanted various antigovernmental slogans, such as ‘Aata Chor,’ ‘Cheeni Chor’ and ‘Go Niazi, Go Niazi’.
A number of opposition members kept on blowing whistles making it difficult for reporters sitting in the press gallery to hear treasury members who were allowed to introduce their private member’s bills. Suri, however, remained undeterred and kept on conducting the private member’s day proceedings and managed to take up over 100 agenda items in the process.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan and other concerned ministers did not oppose any bills moved by the members, allowing the deputy speaker to refer them to committees. The parliamentarians belonging to the opposition benches also gathered in front of Speaker’s dais and tore copies of order of the day amid sloganeering. Suri, however, continued to execute the legislative business amid protest advising the opposition members to take their seats.
Qureshi asks Suri to drop agenda
Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi urged Suri to drop the opposition’s agenda, which had not been moved despite their presence in the House. The minister said it was a private members’ day and the opposition legislators had adopted a childish behavior. He said it was the democratic right of opposition to protest, but they did not participate in the business despite their presence in the House. He criticized the opposition members for creating a fuss by blowing whistles saying they would continue during the upcoming three years as the protestors again started blowing whistles in the middle of his speech.
There was complete silence in the house providing much relief to the treasury members and those sitting in the galleries, though for a brief time, on two occasions when the opposition members staged walkout leaving behind their colleagues to point out quorum. When quorum was first pointed out by Abdul Qadir Patel of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the deputy speaker declared the house in order after the headcount and continued the proceedings.
However, few minutes later, Javed Hasnain of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) again pointed out lack of quorum forcing Mr Suri to first suspend the proceedings for 10 minutes and then adjourn the sitting till Friday morning. Under the rules, the presence of 86 members (one-fourth) of the 342-member house was necessary to run the proceedings.
Minister terms opposition’s behavior as childish
In the absence of the opposition members, Mr Suri gave floor to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi who lamented the opposition’s behavior and asked the chair to reject all the opposition’s bills on the agenda as they were not serious in legislative work.
The minister termed the opposition’s behavior “childish” and “regrettable” and declared that the government was not worried at all over their protest. “These people have been elected for blowing whistles and they will keep blowing whistles for next three years,” Mr Qureshi said while pointing towards the opposition members who were returning to the house when he was still on his legs.
The opposition members failed in their protest attempt to force adjournment of proceedings when one of them pointed out lack of quorum, which on counting was found complete. For the second time, the deputy speaker called for a break for Maghrib Prayers when an opposition member pointed out lack of quorum. Ultimately, the House was adjourned until Friday.