ISLAMABAD: Tuesday’s proceedings in the National Assembly saw lawmakers trading barbs over the Senate polls for the top slots, and the NA Speaker staging a walkout over the absence of Interior Ministry officials.
The members from treasury benches voiced concerns over what they described as tactics used by opposition parties to get their candidates elected for the posts of Senate’s chairman and deputy chairman. But opposition members rejected the allegations levelled against them and contended that the appointment of the first-ever Senate chairman from Balochistan would augur well for the future of the federation.
However, Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) head Mahmood Khan Achakzai said Senate was the house of federation and the use of money and power to win its elections would destroy the foundation of the country and plunge it into darkness.
Achakzai said Nawaz Sharif had stated that war between the democratic and undemocratic forces had begun after he was ousted following the court’s decision on Panamagate.
“They [the democratic forces] have lost the first round of this war,” he added.
Referring to the Senate elections, Achakzai said it was the blackest day of the country’s political history. He alleged that army officer had intervened in the Balochistan elections and demanded of the Prime Minister to constitute a committee to investigate the case.
“If those who sold their votes are pardoned then Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq should also be forgiven for their acts of treachery,” he added.
“I ask all political forces in the country to get united as the war has already begun. I never sold my conscience and those who sell their conscience are known as traitors.
“Those who want to kill me should know that any attack on me will be considered attack on Pakistan – a move that will shatter the country,” he stated.
Pakistan Peoples Party leader Syed Naveed Qamar reacting to the remarks made by Achakzai said that whatever happened during the Senate’s election did not violate the Constitution or any law.
The major opposition parties voted for their candidates for the Senate’s top slots and the ruling party along with its allies cast ballots for their nominees, he said, adding that voting for the candidates of choice was not a violation.
He said the government could have avoided embarrassment had it given due respect to parliament.
There were several reasons for the fall of the Balochistan government, one of which was that MPAs were not satisfied with the ousted chief minister of the province, Qamar added.
Referring to the Senate polls, he said the election process had been completed and the government should now look ahead and learn lessons from it.
In difficult times the ruling party’s leadership poses as champion of democracy but as soon as they overcome the crisis they turn into the worst dictators, he said.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf lawmaker Shehryar Afridi said MPAs from Balochistan revolted as they were not given their due rights by the government.
Mahmood Khan Achakzai should explain as to what he did for the betterment of Balochistan during his political career spanning over many decades, he added.
He also called for legislation to take action against the MPAs who sold their votes in the March 3 Senate polls. He assured the house that his party would support any legislation in this context.
Afridi said keeping in view all these issues the PTI had suggested direct election of the Senate.
Commenting on the political environment especially in the backdrop of the Senate elections, the NA speaker said apart from political differences, it was imperative for the parliamentarians to show respect to each other.
Committee on delimitation
The National Assembly passed a motion to constitute a special committee to examine proposals and objections relating to delimitation of the constituencies.
The motion to this effect was moved by Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch. The committee has been asked to present its report in seven days.
On a point of order, Minister for Privatisation Daniyal Aziz had raised concerns over delimitation of the constituencies by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and termed it unconstitutional.
Reacting to it, NA Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said a committee of the house would be constituted for a meeting with the ECP so that reservations of the political parties on the process could be addressed. He said the process of delimitation should move forward as per the constitutional provisions.
Minister for Interior Ahsan Iqbal said Pakistan desired an honourable and dignified return of Afghan refugees to their homeland.
Responding to a call attention notice, he said necessary arrangements had been put in place at National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) offices so that these refugees could not illegally get Pakistani citizenship.
He clarified that these measures were not directed against the Pashtun population. He said Pashtuns had given innumerable sacrifices in the war on terror.
“We respect the sacrifices of Pashtuns as they have contributed to the stability of Pakistan,” the minister said, adding that he desired to promote harmony to take the country forward.
Earlier, Shehryar Afridi and other PTI lawmakers in call attention notice raised concerns over what they termed racial and ethnic profiling of Pashtuns in the country.
NA speaker walks out
In an unprecedented move, NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq staged a walkout over no-show of Interior Ministry officials who were supposed to answer queries regarding bills on compulsory drug tests of students and prevention of drugs in educational institutions.
Annoyed by their absence, Sadiq said he could not tolerate disrespect of parliament.
His move came after the NA speaker was informed that Interior Secretary Arshad Mirza could not appear before parliament until 12:30pm.
“I will continue staging walkouts until Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi gives a written undertaking that such a scenario will not be repeated,” he warned. “Henceforth, I will not chair the session.”
“The parliament is being ridiculed despite the presence of a federal minister, state minister and parliamentary secretary,” he added.
“If no action is taken against absence of interior ministry officials, parliament will decide about staging a protest,” he stated.
After his walkout, the NA session was chaired by Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi. Shortly after, PTI members also walked out of the NA. The deputy speaker requested them to remain in the house, but PTI leaders ignored the request.
After sometime, they returned to the NA when the chair asked Dr Darshan to bring them back on the floor of the House.
On Tuesday, three bills were presented, namely the Compulsory Drug Test of Students, the Prevention of Drugs in Educational Institutions, and the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities. Later the house was adjourned to meet again on Wednesday tomorrow at 9:30am.