The National Assembly on Monday witnessed slugfest between the treasury and opposition benches over the Ghotki train accident in which over 50 people were killed and over a 100 injured.
As soon as the session got under way with Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri in the chair, the opposition members surrounded the speaker’s dice and chanted “Go Niazi Go” slogans.
When Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry took the floor, slogans of resignation echoed in the National Assembly.
Fawad blamed the policies of the former rules, saying that such accidents are occurring in the railways due to many years of shortcomings.
“If the money of Orange Line had been spent on the railway tracks, such a situation would not have arisen.”
Fawad said that an inquiry had been ordered into the tragic train accident under the Railways Act 1890.
"The federal government inspector for railways is reaching the site for investigating the cause of derailment and to assess the damage and fix the responsibility," he said.
He said the people of the whole country, including the opposition, were grieved over the tragic accident. He fully agreed with the opposition's demand that the incident should be thoroughly debated in this august House.
The debate, however, should be held in the presence of minister for railways as he was at the accident site to monitor the relief and rescue operation, he added
A new record was set in the parliament’s history with the opposition staging a walkout against the opposition.
The dispute started over giving the mic to PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari first as PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal objected to it. When Iqbal was given the mic, Bilawal said to adjust the mic according to Iqbal’s height.
An infuriated Iqbal started criticising Bilawal who in turn called the PML-N leader a “paper official”.
Bilawal said, “The poor people of the country who travel by train are not safe and when we draw the attention of the house to this tragedy, some so- called leaders from the opposition benches start shining their politics with papers in their hands instead of talking about the Ghotki issue”.
“You are passing ordinances. Why have railway accidents become rampant in this government? Do you feel pain for the people of Ghotki?” Bilawal asked.
Reacting to Bilawal’s strong broadside, PML-N lawmakers immediately staged a walkout in protest.
Earlier, Iqbal said that today is the day of national tragedy. “The incumbent government is responsible for the train accident,” he said, demanding the resignations of the prime minister and the railways minister.
Further, Bilawal said it was lamentable that a poor person's life is not safe.
"They [government] do political point-scoring even when incidents like these happen," he said.
"I want to convey a message to the bereaved families: we stand with you and demand answers from the authorities."
The Bhutto scion questioned why railway accidents had become rampant during the incumbent government.
Bilawal demanded a full discussion on the train accident in the House.
“How many dangerous accidents have happened in our railways? The injured are still being shifted to hospitals.”
10 bills passed
The National Assembly passed 10 government bills and referred four legislative proposals including two ordinances to the relevant committee.
The 10 bills passed by the House included the University of Islamabad Bill, 2020; the Privatization Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2020; the Enforcement of Women's Property Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2020; the Loans for Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Purposes (Amendment) Bill, 2019; the Global Change Impact Studies Centre (Amendment) Bill, 2020; the National College of Arts Institute Bill, 2020; the Protection of Communal Properties of Minorities (Amendment) Bill, 2020; the Islamabad Capital Territory Charities Registration, Regulation and Facilitation Bill, 2020; the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and the Hyderabad Institute for Technical and Management Sciences Bill, 2021;.Two ordinances including the Elections (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 and the Protection of Parents Ordinance, 2021 were laid in the House. According to the Rule 120 (6) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in National Assembly says that an Ordinance laid before the Assembly under sub-rule (1) of rule 170 shall be deemed to be a Bill introduced in the Assembly on the day it is so laid. As per this rule, the both ordinances were referred to the concerned committees. Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari introduced the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which was referred to the relevant committee for deliberation.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan introduced the Islamabad Healthcare Facilities Management Authority Bill, 2021.
It was also referred to the relevant committee for further consideration.
(With input from APP)