PML-N rejects idea of virtual parliamentary session

Khawaja Asif says suspending parliament on pretext of contagion unconstitutional

​ Our Correspondent April 21, 2020
Khawaja Asif says suspending parliament on pretext of contagion unconstitutional. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

LAHORE: Rejecting the proposal of a virtual session, the country’s biggest opposition party – the PML-N – has demanded that the federal government convene a parliamentary session to develop a national strategy to deal with the novel coronavirus contagion.

“When the executive, the courts, the law enforcement agencies, doctors and medical staff can work during the pandemic, why not the parliament? People, doctors and medical staff have to pay the price of the absence of a national strategy to overcome corona,” said the PML-N leader Khawaja Asif.

He was addressing a press conference flanked by top PML-N leaders – Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Ahsan Iqbal, Ayaz Sadiq, Mushahidullah Khan, Khawaja Saad Rafique and Khurran Dastigir Khan

He said the proposal of holding a virtual session of the National Assembly is a grand conspiracy to violate the constitutional rights of the people of Pakistan, their representatives and the democratic institutions.

Asif said closing the parliament is unconstitutional and undemocratic. The government’s desperate attempt to keep the parliament shut has been exposed by the fact that it is opening up the entire country’s activity while keeping the house closed

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He said the people have the right to know performance of their representatives.

“The people need to know if the steps taken by this government to fight coronavirus are dictated by public interest or political interest of the ruling PTI.

“It is the duty of the government to ensure a session with physical presence of the lawmakers of the National Assembly and the Senate.

“The government intends to get away with another disastrous budget without any accountability and criticism through such virtual sessions. Unconstitutional traditions won’t be allowed to gain grounds in the country,” he added.

The leaders said the National Assembly Hall has a capacity of 450 people and if the ground floor galleries are included the capacity can increase to 800 people. The average attendance is 200 and with all precautionary measures and safe distance protocols the session can easily be held, they said.

They said the government won’t be allowed to rob the people of their constitutional rights on the pretext of coronavirus. The example of international organizations’ meeting is a different thing as its participants belong to different countries and couldn’t travel due to restrictions.Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the benefits of a massive drop of oil prices in the global markets must also be transferred to the common man which will provide relief and help reduce inflation.

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He proposed that patrol prices should be brought down to Rs50 per liter, while tariffs of electricity and gas should be at least reduced by at least one-third.

Ahsan Iqbal called for amending the law governing the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). He said NAB Ordinance amendment introduced by the government is about to run its scheduled time and the government must make an effort to amend the draconian NAB law in consultation with political powers.

He slammed the illegal detention of PML-N Punjab chief Hamza Shehbaz Sharif and a senior civil servant Ahad Cheema and demanded their immediate release. He also strongly condemned NAB’s repeated call-up notices to the PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif.

“Shehbaz has not only served detention under NAB but has also provided all documents and answers needed. Therefore, there is no need or justification for such acts of political victimization and harassment,” he said.