The opposition on Monday came down hard on the federal government after the prime minister preferred to address the nation on the ongoing protests via television rather than addressing the parliament and the interior minister excused himself from issuing a policy statement on the crisis.
National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Friday instructed Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid to issue a policy statement on the country-wide protests staged by the outlawed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) over the arrest of its leader Saad Hussain Rizvi.
However, on Monday, the interior minister left the house earlier after informing the speaker that he was not feeling well and that Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri would give the statement.
“Where is the prime minister? The interior minister has committed contempt of the house by saying that the PM would give a statement through the TV. What is the purpose of this house,” PPP’s Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said while questioning the absence of the PM and quick departure of the interior minister.
“The prime minister, who otherwise gives big statements on the TV, should have been here today,” the former PM said, adding that “the government is completely responsible for the prevailing situation in the country and has completely failed in fulfilling its responsibilities”.
Ashraf was referring to the violence in Lahore where clashes between the law enforcing agencies (LEAs) and the TLP protestors on Sunday allegedly resulted in loss of lives, damages to properties and abductions of some LEA personnel.
“Confusion prevails as no trustworthy information is available because of a ban on media coverage of the incident,” he added. Asking as to why live bullets were fired on the protestors, he said the government is dividing the nation and doing everything that could lead to fueling more hatred.
“No other government has acted in a more fascist manner,” Ashraf thundered.
He said the government doesn’t even know how to deal with a sensitive issue like Namoos-e-Risalat – the honour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). “The government is playing with fire,” he added.
The former premier said the interior minister left the house in a hurry instead of giving a complete picture of the situation. “The PM and the interior minister couldn’t stand in the house to give a policy statement and apprise the house about the actual situation,” he added.
Surprisingly, a Fateha was offered for the TLP “martyrs” in the house while the martyrs of the police were not even mentioned. JUI-F MNA Mufti Abdul Shakoor offered Fateha after Speaker Asad Qaiser allowed him to pray for a former MNA.
At the end of Arabic prayers, Shakoor asked the Almighty to accept the shahadat – martyrdom – of the TLP workers. Later in his speech, he said the JUI-F is with the TLP workers.
Criticizing the interior minister, Shakoor said everyone remembers how Rashid incited violence when he was a part of the opposition. Referring to the PTI’s marathon sit-in in 2014 he asked as to who had protested and attacked the police at D-Chowk, which is located right outside the parliament.
“Did the then government open live fire on those protesting at the D-Chowk? Were they declared terrorists?” he questioned. He reminded the house that the punishment for disrespecting the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is death penalty.
After the opposition lawmakers lambasted the PTI-led government, Minister for Religious Affairs Qadri stood up to give a policy statement on the prevailing situation.
He said the government had been trying for the past four months to resolve the issue and was bound to present the matter before the house where all sides would give their point of view.
“Determining the foreign policy is the government’s job,” he said, while explaining that the TLP was negotiating with the government but was also gearing up for a protest scheduled for April 20.
“It is the government’s responsibility to protect life and properties of the people,” he said, adding that Islam doesn’t even permit offering funeral prayers on pathways.
Tired of his speech, the opposition once again protested, saying that two ministers had spoken and yet the policy statement had not been presented. Ashraf termed the speech a “joke” with the house.
As the third minister – Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan – took the floor and started giving the historical background of the crisis, the opposition members stood up and started complaining to the speaker that they were not in the house to hear such stuff.
In response, the speaker noted that he would adjourn the proceedings if the opposition refused to hear the minister’s speech. When the opposition did not show interest in Khan’s statement, the speaker did adjourn the sitting till 2pm on Thursday.
Earlier, the newly-elected MNA from the PML-N, Nosheen Iftikhar, also took oath.