The lawmakers during the National Assembly session on Friday were divided on a resolution presented by the government on the issue of Namoos-e-Risalat and expelling the French envoy over the publication of blasphemous caricatures in his country.
The resolution was tabled on Tuesday as part of a deal struck with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in return for the banned outfit calling off its countrywide week-long violent protests, triggered by the arrest of its chief, Saad Rizvi.
The treasury and opposition benches were unable to amicably discuss the contents of the resolution, and the deputy speaker prorogued the session for an indefinite period.
As the session started, the lawmakers belonging to the opposition parties protested for not being given the floor before the question hour.
NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri insisted the he would give them the opportunity to speak once the question hour was over as per the rules of the house.
However, the opposition MNAs were adamant that the debate over the resolution was more important than the question hour and they should be given the chance to express their point of view on the matter.
On the deputy speaker's refusal, the opposition lawmakers gathered around his desk and started shouting slogans. Suri tried to ignore them and continued with the proceedings for a while but then he gave up and prorogued the session.
During the last session, which the government had called in emergency after successfully negotiating with the TLP leadership, PTI MNA Amjad Ali Khan had tabled a resolution and asked the speaker to refer the matter to a special committee.
The opposition had objected to it, saying that the house was united on the issue but the contents of the resolution needed to be reviewed before unanimously passing it to send a strong message to the world.
On Friday, when the lawmakers had to send a message of unity to the world, they stood divided.
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For the past couple of weeks, the government took certain measures that created confusion. First, the federal cabinet declared TLP a “proscribed” organisation and decided to go for its dissolution by filing a reference in the Supreme Court. Then there were clashes between the law enforcement officials and the TLP workers in Lahore which forced the government to engage the party it banned a few days ago for negotiations.
As a result of the talks, the PTI lawmaker tabled a TLP-dictated resolution in the assembly and since then the government and opposition have failed to develop consensus on the contents of the resolution or bring a new one to express deep respect for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and condemn the blasphemous material being published with frequent intervals in different parts of the world.
Speaking to media after the session, former premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf of the PPP criticised Suri’s move to end the session.
“All the opposition parties were asking the government to present the agreement which it had signed with the banned TLP so that a proper debate could take place and a resolution could be passed,” he added.
“Under what law has the TLP been banned and why were the previous agreements not implemented?” Ashraf asked.
PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal also criticised the deputy speaker for not listening to the opposition, saying the government escaped by proroguing the session.
He said the PML-N wanted to debate on the resolution and the attack on former PEMRA chairman Absar Alam.
Iqbal lambasted the PTI government for imposing curbs on media and freedom of expression.
Condemning the Quetta blast, the senior PML-N leader said the government had failed to protect the lives of the innocent and it was busy making “fake cases” against his party.
The JUI-F leadership also expressed displeasure over Friday’s proceedings, claiming that the government was making the issue controversial by its non-serious attitude.
A spokesperson later said the rulers were incapable of solving any problem seriously and responsibly as no minister came to attend the session.
Separately, the information minister tweeted before the session that the government had fulfilled its agreement with the TLP by presenting the resolution in the assembly.
“The opposition is free to present its resolution and the government has nothing to do with it,” he added.