A file photo of the National Assembly.

Consensus on holding Covid-safe NA session soon: FM

Minister appreciates proposals put forth by parliamentary leaders

​ Our Correspondent April 29, 2020

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday said parliamentary leaders were moving towards reaching a consensus on how to safely hold a session of the National Assembly amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He was speaking after parliamentary leaders participated in a virtual meeting on the invitation of the National Assembly Committee on Virtual Session to finalise the modalities for future proceedings of the assembly in the wake of the viral outbreak.

“The parliamentary leaders met to decide whether the National Assembly session should convene physically or virtually during the pandemic,” he said.

The participants of the meeting discussed when the assembly session should be convened as well as its working and modalities

“All political parties were represented in the meeting today and they gave their input as to how to proceed with the assembly session,” the minister said

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“We are finalising the suggestions and forwarding them to the National Assembly speaker [Asad Qaiser], who will then decide how to proceed,” he added.

Qureshi appreciated the input of the parliamentary leaders and lauded the suggestions received from all political parties. “I can see us moving towards a consensus.”

The foreign minister said the proposal of “proportional representation” by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was quite significant that could allow the session to take place while ensuring the safety of parliamentarians

He added that Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid’s suggestion to close all galleries except the press gallery during the session was also a good idea.

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“The presence of parliamentarians from Sindh and Balochistan in the session might be difficult and alternative arrangements will have to be made.”

The minister said the government believed in the supremacy of parliament and valued the proposals received from parliamentary leaders.

“We must rise above political affiliations to ensure the sanctity of parliament,” he added.

“Parliamentary business continues across the world even in times of crisis.”

The committee on virtual sessions was constituted by the NA speaker with the mandate to suggest amendments in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the National Assembly 2007, if any, for holding a virtual session of the National Assembly during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The committee had extended invitations to the PPP chairman, PML-N’s Khawaja Asif, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal’s Asad Mahmood and ANP’s Amir Haider Azam Khan.

The parliamentary leaders of the ruling party and its allies included Qureshi, Grand Democratic Alliance’s Ghous Bakhsh Mehr, PML-Q’s Tariq Bashir Cheema, BAP’s Khalid Hussain Magsi, BNP-M’s Akhtar Mengal, MQM-P’s Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, AML’s Sheikh Rashid and Jamhoori Watan Party’s Shah Zain Bugti.

(With input from APP)