The first session of the National Assembly’s fifth parliamentary year ended amid high-voltage protest led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Friday and left the government fearing about the future of the democratic system.
“…if democracy is derailed, the PML-N would be responsible,” Law Minister Farooq H. Naek warned the opposition.
The minister rose from his seat after the opposition members disregarded decorum of the house despite reminders from Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza and said, “Rowdiness is against democratic norms and rules of procedure and would create anarchy in the country which can derail democracy.”
Naek once again defended the embattled Prime Minister, saying, “Supreme Court had not disqualified Yousaf Raza Gilani and he is member of this house and the Prime Minister.”
A Supreme Court decision on April 26 in contempt of court case against PM Gilani has set into motion a new debate over the interpretation of the decision and has also transformed opposition’s smouldering anger into an uproarious protest in the NA which has no parallel in the last four years.
Following a threat by the opposition to block his entry in the lower house, the PM attended the NA session on April 27 when opposition was absent and presented justification for holding the country’s highest office.
However, Gilani did not attend any of the four sittings during first week of May (from Monday to Friday) due to noisy protest of the opposition. Since Monday, the PML-N members attended the session wearing black armbands and intensified the protest by surrounding the Prime Minister’s seat.
Like always, Friday’s session also started with the mantra of “go Gilani go” which lasted till the end when deputy speaker Faisal Karim Kundi postponed the session for indefinite period.
MNAs from the PML-N raised slogans, tore booklets of questions/answers, and kept on thumping the desks to obstruct the proceedings of the house. Abid Sher Ali, Hanif Abbasi, Shakeel Awan, Khwaja Asif, Muhammad Safdar, and Ahsan Iqbal were among notable members of the party who actively participated in the protest.
However, the government managed to pass the National Human Rights Commission Bill 2012 for promotion and protection of human rights as provided in the Constitution. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar presented the bill, which had already been passed by the Senate.
In addition, Minister for Inter Provincial Coordination Mir Hazar Khan laid before the house, which remained in session for about 35 minutes, the annual report of the Council of Common Interest for the year 2010-2011.
After the session, the leader of the opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the media that the Prime Minister did not attend the NA session out of opposition’s fear.
While talking about the government’s resolution of putting its weight behind the Prime Minister, he said that rules of business were not followed and opposition members, who had numerical strength, were not taken into account.
Putting question mark over the process of voting, he said “No one knows how the resolution passed.”
The opposition leader said that both speaker and deputy speaker of the national assembly should have to be impartial and “We have sent a letter to the Speaker against misuse of authority.”
Nisar also said that the government did not include his party’s resolution for creation of new provinces in agenda of the day and added, new provinces cannot be created through passage of resolutions but through constitutional amendment.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2012.