The first week of the ongoing National Assembly session finished without any significant developments on Friday. Despite the opposition’s protest, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the majority of his cabinet members remained absent from the house.
In the absence of Premier Nawaz, no one could give concrete replies to the opposition on various issues ranging from foreign policy matters to weak governance.
On Friday, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Shafqat Mahmood expressed his concerns the government was trying to curb media freedom while referring to the recent notification of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).
The watchdog recently issued guidelines to the media to display caution on the brewing Saudi-Iran conflict. The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s backbencher Talal Chaudhry assured his government had no such intentions.
However, PM’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs could not satisfy the house on the government’s policy on Saudi-Iran conflict and Pakistan’s stance on the Pathankot air base attack. Sartaj Aziz promised to give a briefing to the house after the end of the Saudi foreign minister’s visit to Pakistan.
Opposition leader Khursheed Shah constantly embarrassed the government for lack of quorum in the house. But Shah’s efforts did not bear any encouraging results.
Commenting on President Mamnoon’s address to parliament, Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Shaikh Salahuddin said the president had said the country’s prestige was linked with its parliament. But the PM himself did not bother to turn up to attend its session throughout the year, he added.
The opposition also raised serious reservations over the government’s constitutional violations as it did not convene the quarterly meeting of the Council of Common Interest in the past 11 months.
PPP’s Nafisa Shah said the government did not even announce the last year’s National Finance Commission award. The National Economic Council meeting was also due but the rulers were shy to face the provinces, she added. The opposition leader pointed out the trust deficit between provinces and the federation. He also warned the route of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor should not be altered.
Pakistan Peoples Party lawmaker Shazia Mari said the president speech last year was irrelevant with facts. She also complained the Standing Committee on Information Technology got the bill on cybercrimes passed without giving copies to the members of the panel. “What kind of legislation is this?” she questioned.
She also criticised the government for its expensive advertisement campaigns. “I would suggest you to focus on your performance rather than multi-million advertisement campaigns.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2016.