Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) boycotted on Friday a debate on President Asif Ali Zardari’s address to a joint sitting of parliament.
“We will not participate in the proceedings until Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani resigns,” said PML-N Senator Zafar Ali Shah.
Shah urged Senate Chairman Syed Nayyar Husain Bukhari to “follow the Constitution and not start a debate on the president’s address to parliament till the matter of the prime minister’s conviction was solved.”
The motion for a debate was moved by Law Minister Farooq H Naek after he expressed gratitude for President Zardari’s speech to both houses of parliament on March 17.
However, PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan termed the debate unconstitutional. He said the motion is moved by a minister who is a member of a “non-functional cabinet” and refused to acknowledge either him or the premier.
Harsh words were exchanged between PPP and PML-N legislators, with ANP’s Zahid Khan also pitching in. The heated exchange was, however, expunged from the record on the Senate chairman’s decision.
PML-N’s Raja Zafarul Haq accused the president of acting “illegally and according to the advice sent by Gilani. The PPP knows well that we are protesting for the right thing as Gilani stands disqualified by the Supreme Court.”
Later, PML-N legislators staged a walkout from the Upper House amid the rumpus becoming characteristic of late.
PPP Senator Raza Rabbani urged them to participate in the debate, saying, “the PML-N should follow the Constitution and express their views on the president’s speech.”
Leader of the House Jahangir Badar flayed the walkout saying the party “always seeks an opportunity to disturb the atmosphere, which is regrettable.” Badar argued that the debate over the president’s address was as important as the address itself.
Another PPP Senator Saeed Ghani, too, urged the PML-N to soften its belligerent stance saying that if the party does indeed respect the judiciary as much as it claims to, then it should respect its decision.
Senator Afrasiab Khattak from the Awami National Party, and amongst those who did take part in the debate, lauded the president’s services terming him “a man who loves democracy.”
He also raised the issue of net profit not being given by Wapda for the hydel energy projects installed in Khyber -Pakhtunkhwa. He urged that the province’s due share be paid and demanded that a local body be set up in Fata to hold elections.
JUI-F’s Maulana Ghafoor Haideri expressed his dissatisfaction over the debate saying that “nobody in the house talks about the real issues faced by the common man.”
He said that while “Lyari is on fire, Balochistan is slipping away from our hands. Drone attacks are becoming a routine, and no one except the Chief Justice of Pakistan is taking the matter seriously.” He also criticised the PML-N for not respecting democratic norms.
PML-Q’s Mushahid Hussain Syed expressed his concern over US involvement in the region. He said the “recent statements by Obama in Afghanistan are of serious concern and reflect their (US) willingness for a prolonged war.”
Earlier, senators including the chairman and deputy chairman condemned the blast in Bajaur Agency and termed it an act of cowardice.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2012.