The National Assembly session on Tuesday witnessed the government and opposition at loggerheads on the issue of blocking Nato supply routes.
The government censured the partial blockade of supply routes by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and said the party’s reaction to the issue showed “lack of maturity”.
While the government expressed its solidarity with the opposition that the attacks were indeed a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, it advised the political leadership to “not get emotional or overlook ground realities.”
The stance taken by Minister for Safron Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) sparked a heated debate as the PTI said it “sternly opposes the statement.”
Baloch volunteered to respond to a resolution moved by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) members against drone attacks and said, “We are using every available channel, keeping in view the ground realities and are trying to build diplomatic pressure that drone attacks are counter-productive.”
He referred to a recent statement of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who had called for an end to the US drone campaign during a meeting with Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, and said, “Our policy over the attacks is quite clear.”
Criticising PTI’s decision to block Nato supply lines in Peshawar, Baloch said that the decision to initiate talks with the Taliban was taken by the All Parties Conference (APC) and the government’s efforts were then scuttled by a drone attack.
“The issue should have been discussed again by the APC for a strategy but one party (PTI) did not waste time to gain political mileage,” he added.
“It (the decision to block Nato supply routes) did not show maturity,” he added.
The moment Baloch took his seat, PTI lawmaker Arif Alvi was ready to launch a salvo of criticism against the government, saying his party’s decision was a blessing in disguise for the rulers and that they could have used it as a bargaining chip. “Our protest helps the government to make its case stronger and tell the US that it has domestic pressure,” he said.
Alvi vehemently refuted comments that the move to block supply routes was immature and said the sit-ins were staged after the prime minister caused disappointment by not taking up the matter with the United Nations as agreed in the APC.
“Blockade of Nato supply lines is the only solution,” he added.
Despite these differences, the house unanimously passed the JUI-F’s resolution that condemned drone attacks and said they must be stopped forthwith.”
PPP walks out
Meanwhile, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) staged a walkout in protest against the government’s plan to privatise 26 percent shares of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
The opposition was provided with the opportunity by the government when the House was having a discussion on a motion moved by Sheikh Rohail Asghar.
The PPP started its protest after Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed told the House that the government had decided to privatise 26 per cent shares of PIA.
Leader of the opposition Syed Khursheed Ahmad Shah, said, “PPP will resist any move by the government of privatisation,” adding that the decision would deprive thousands of employees of their jobs.
Arif Alvi said that the government should take concrete measures to improve the performance of the national carrier. He proposed that a committee of the National Assembly should be set up to review the working of the PIA and submit its report in the House.
The proposal was also supported by Asif Husnain of MQM and Sahibzada Tariq Ullah of Jamat-e-Islami (JI).
Earlier, the House completed its ongoing debate over the price hike of commodities with the passage of a resolution that said the government should take steps to alleviate poverty.
Though the House passed several resolutions that include setting up of universities, Hamid Hameed of PML-N was unable to gather enough support when he proposed another resolution that maintained that the government should take effective steps to impose a ban on manufacturing, import, issuance of permits, sales and drinking of liquor in the country.
There was no one in the House who voted in favour of the resolution, and it was subsequently dropped.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2013.