ISLAMABAD: The first session of the National Assembly ended last week but it has stirred up a debate on the fact that instead of being pro-active and pre-emptive, the ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is struggling to lead the House from the front.
From shrieking and sloganeering of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-n) in the inaugural session to the everyday bedlam in the house – all is vividly evident from the press gallery.
The first session started and most of it focused on the mini-budget presented by the government but the everyday happenings in the House spoke volumes of the manner in which it was being run.
The Speaker, Asad Qaiser, is the custodian of the house but right since the day the Prime Minister was to be elected, all his decisions seem to have been made by the PTI.
The PTI picked him for his five years (2013-2018) in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, but handling the 124 lawmakers in the province compared with the rowdy house of over 300 veterans is altogether a different experience.
Most of the time, it is the senior bureaucrats sitting below his dais who remind him of what to say while he is stuck, and the opposition lawmakers make much from his helplessness.
The speaker was seen as feeble and struggling when a contingent of N-leaguers created ruckus in the House for over two hours right after the PM’s election. “Order in the house… please let Imran Khan Niazi speak” and “house in order please” were the only words he could utter.
Right after the inaugural session he held a series of meetings with lawmakers from all parties, including allied members and former speakers Syed Fakhar Imam and Fehmida Mirza, in order to learn the ropes, with the parties also assuring him they would ‘behave’ each time.
However, PTI’s poor handling doesn’t end at the speaker as the treasury benches not only lack experience in the legislative business, but also fail in the art of cajoling opposition and find it difficult to hold their nerves when in trouble.
Usually, when the opposition protests over some issue or hold a walkout, the speaker directs a few lawmakers from the government side to go and persuade them to return to the house.
During the inaugural session, the PTI did not know where to go, what to do and instead waited for the N-leaguers to exhaust and sit calmly which did not happen. On one occasion, the opposition parties walked out when Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri did not let a PML-N lawmaker speak when he asked for a minute to wind up his speech.
The PTI’s federal ministers are rarely seen in the house except on days when the PM is present. At times they are found flitting in and out of the house to ‘ensure’ their presence. Nevertheless, whenever they talk, it seems they stand to settle scores with the opposition or use the language of taunt and aggression that usually suits the opposition.
Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry created ruckus in the National Assembly with remarks the speaker had to expunge while the firebrand Minister for Communications, Murad Saeed, did not lag behind in blaming the past governments for the “mess created”.
“The government’s chief whip [Amir Dogar] is an active guy but the government needs to ensure it is the ruling party,” said PPP’s Syed Khursheed Shah in one of the sittings while referring to the vacant seats of the federal ministers.
Commenting on the PTI struggling to run the house, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told The Express Tribune that the “government has yet to come out of the opposition mode”.
During the budget debate, former speaker Ayaz Sadiq pointed out that neither the finance minister nor anyone from the finance ministry or the Federal Bureau of Revenue was present in the house to take notes of what was being said.
Meanwhile, PML-N’s Marriyum Aurangzaib was seen marking the book of rules of business during the session and she seemed to give the PTI a run for their money as the party is already led by experienced politicians like Rana Sanaullah, Khawaja Muhammad Asif and Ahsan Iqbal.
The upcoming session which the opposition has especially requisitioned will be another test of nerves for the PTI, its ministers and above all the speaker on how to handle a disorderly house.
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