The opposition parties’ protest in the National Assembly on Friday during the 2021-22 budget session could best be described as useless or pointless as, unlike previous years and contrary to their announcement of staging strong protest, the intensity of the protest this time around was somewhat lower than the previous years.
For the viewers of the award-winning hit series House of Cards, the rumpus in NA could best be summed up in the words of Frank Underwood who, in one of his famous dialogues, said: “there are two kinds of pain; the sort of pain that makes you strong or useless pain.”
Despite all the hue and cry, the opposition parties’ lawmakers neither surrounded the Prime Minister Imran Khan, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin or NA speaker’s dais, nor did they tear up the budget speech or staged a token walkout, all of which has been considered a sort of permanent features of previous years’ protests.
However, the opposition parties did manage to slam the budget documents on desks and continued raising slogans against the government with such intensity that it drowned out the voice of the finance minister.
The treasury benches occasionally countered the hue and cry made by the opposition parties by desk-thumping whenever the finance minister shared positive news for the next fiscal year.Meanwhile, as the session began, members of government benches gathered around the premier during the recitation of Naat, leading Speaker Asad Qaiser to ask them to go back to their seats.
As the Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin commenced his speech, Sharif and Bilawal entered the House whereupon the opposition members greeted the two leaders by desk-thumping and chanting slogans. Thus began the futile and shallow protest, casting little or no effect at all on the outcome of the proceedings.
On most occasions during the session, it seemed that the opposition members were competing to create loud noises by banging the books harder on their desks. Despite speaker’s directions, the opposition lawmakers continued to make videos of their protest, apparently to keep a record and share on WhatsApp groups and social media.
A day after the deputy speaker humiliated the opposition parties by bulldozing the NA proceedings, which pushed the opposition parties to file a no-confidence move against him, the opposition appeared all charged-up to sabotage the session by merely creating cacophony.
On the contrary, the members of the treasury benches remained calm and equanimous as if nothing was going on. The PM, ministers and almost every MNA on government side kept reading the budget documents and ignored the protest.
Sensing the gravity of the opposition’s move, the treasury side stood up and tried to thwart the move, which led to heated argument and the speaker had to ask the opposition side to move back to their territory.
As the government side was persuading the opposition lawmakers to go back to their side, PTI’s MNA Saif Ur Rehman taunted the opposition lawmakers for using the women MNAs as shield to invade into government’s territory.
PML-N members Maryam Aurangzeb, Seema Jilani, Shaista Malik, Rubina Khurshid and other women carrying anti-government placards managed to stand behind the finance minister where their placards began to appear on state TV frames.
However, women PTI members, including Uzma Riaz, Asma Qadeer and Shandana Gulzar, tried to snatch posters and managed to tear a couple. The only time the house saw tranquillity was when Azan was offered.
Interestingly, after the budget speech, PM Imran went to finance minister’s seat and lauded him, patting on his shoulder for delivering the speech amid the noisy session. Subsequently, the speaker adjourned the proceeding till 4pm on Monday.