KARACHI: A question about a 'particular virus' in jails triggered a heated debate between the opposition and treasury benches, compelling the former to protest in the House and stage a token walkout.
The use of foul language by members of both sides created a ruckus in the Assembly.
The situation turned tense when Arif Mustafa Jatoi of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) asked a question of the health minister. “Is it true that there is a particular virus that affects politicians in jails?”
The health minister, Dr Azra Pechuho, expressing serious dismay over the question, said, “Sir, I want to refer to the rules on the admissibility of this question. The question should not be frivolous. The question should not waste the time of this House.”
In response, Jatoi said, “Mister Speaker, the question has already been admitted by your secretariat. It is not my fault. “
The health minister became emotional and said, “It is a meaningless question, which cannot be asked here.” Jatoi responded again.
“I have the speaker’s authority behind this question. The question is on the agenda. It means the speaker’s secretariat allowed me to ask it.”
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The health minister, reading out the rules of the Assembly, called the question “frivolous” and “defamatory”.
The speaker attempted to calm down both the members, but Jatoi and Pechuho continued their row, firing arguments and counter-arguments at each other.
The health minister claimed that the Sindh Assembly secretary had sent this question to her department seeking a response.
The health department officials had refused to respond, after which Jatoi had pressured officials to put this question on the agenda, she said. Treasury members thumped their desks when Pechuho accused Jatoi of harassing health employees, while opposition members started to protest her remarks.
Meanwhile, the speaker attempted to reason with the lawmakers. “The member has asked a question. The minister has given the answer that there is no any particular virus in jails that affects politicians. Since the answer is not affirmative, we can ask supplementary questions and instigate a debate on it.”
The speaker then requested Jatoi to take his seat. Jatoi, however, flatly refused.
Members of both the parties started shouting slogans against each other. The speaker again asked Jatoi to sit down, but in vain.
At this point, Mukesh Chawla suggested the speaker to “send Jatoi to a doctor for a medical checkup.” This enraged the opposition members even more.
PPP’s Imtiaz Shaikh called it a pre-planned protest, carried out to create “chaos” in the House. The opposition leader responded that PPP ministers had used “abusive” language against Jatoi, which is what they were protesting.
Shaikh and Saeed Ghani suggested the speaker to check the assembly proceeding’s record and denied that PPP minister or members had used foul language in the House.
The PTI and GDA lawmakers subsequently staged a token walkout.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2019.
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