ISLAMABAD: Altercation between two senior lawmakers on Wednesday forced the National Assembly deputy speaker to prorogue the NA’s 47th session without holding any significant debate on the burning issue of merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
It happened soon after JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman concluded his speech – where he laid stress on holding a referendum to decide Fata’s future – and the chair announced to give floor to PkMAP chief Mahmood Khan Achakzia.
This decision infuriated PTI Vice-chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi who, along with other members of his party, rose from his chair and demanded of the deputy speaker to let him speak first.
Getting no response from the chair, Qureshi engaged in an altercation with Achakzai, who kept on refusing to give floor to Qureshi, saying “no one will be able to talk if I am not allowed to talk first”.
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As the argument lingered on and noisemaking legislators took over order of the house, the deputy speaker, Murtaza Abbasi, thought it better to prorogue the house for an indefinite period.
The eighth and the last sitting of the 47th session was also marred by two token walkouts respectively staged by the PTI, and the MQM and the PPP.
The PTI protested against the chair’s decision not to allow one of its lawmakers, Ali Muhammad Khan, to speak, while the PPP and the MQM recorded their protest against non-payment of salaries and dues to the Pakistan Steel Mill employees.
During almost three hours long proceedings, quorum was pointed out twice. However, it was found complete both the times after a headcount was carried out.
Speaking on a point of order, Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada said debate over circulation of an alleged list of the Intelligence Bureau should now end.
“The prime minister has categorically stated that the said list is forged. Our reservations are addressed,” said Pirzada, who was among the several legislators listed in the said memo as having links with militant and sectarian outfits.
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Earlier, the JUI-F chief in his speech accused some of the opposition parties, which, according to him, favour Fata’s immediate merger with K-P and are holding ‘fake’ protests in the capital in a bid to pressurise the government.
Without naming the PTI, the ANP and the JI which spearhead the protest, Rehman alleged that the parties on October 9 brought their activists – who were not Fata residents but hailed from different parts of K-P – to Islamabad’s D-Chowk.
“It’s a matter involving the future of 15 million people of Fata. But some parties want the government to take a decision in haste and without considering the will of Fata residents,” Rehman said.
He said the debate on the issue should be extended and the people of Fata should be given the right to express their opinion through a referendum.
“They (Fata people) should be asked what they want through a referendum just like the one that the UK government organised to seek opinion of their people on exiting the European Union,” he said.
Fazl said a few parties, for some obvious political gains, wanted to change the decades-old system in Fata through legislation without consulting the tribesmen.
“Every political party wants welfare of the tribesmen but at the same time every political party has a different approach in doing so,” said the JUI-F chief, adding that the debate over the merger should continue and the decision should not be taken in haste.
Speaking to the media outside the Parliament House later, Shah Mehmood Qureshi accused the government of misleading the nation on Fata merger.
“On the one hand, the government showed willingness for Fata’s merger but on the other, it asked its supporting parties to oppose the move in parliament,” he said.
Responding to Fazl’s statement, Qureshi said a few political parties wanted to maintain status quo in Fata for their political gains.