In a tit for tat response, the treasury benches on Monday did not allow National Assembly Leader of Opposition Shehbaz Sharif to open debate on the upcoming budget and interrupted his speech by shouting loud slogans despite continual intervention of the NA Speaker Asad Qaiser.
After his failure to persuade the ruling party lawmakers to allow Shehbaz to complete his speech – in which the opposition leader was criticizing the government’s economic policy and accusing it of trying to deceive people by presenting fake numbers – the speaker had to take a 20-minute break.
However, the 20-minute break turned out to be 3 hour and 10 minutes long and the speaker came back only to announce that the session was adjourned till Tuesday [today].
During the 3-hour-and-10-minute-long break, the government and opposition parties remained engaged in the speaker office to determine the conditions for the remainder of the budget session as the “tit for tat” strategy apparently turned out to be counterproductive.
“When we ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to come to the parliament he questions us why should he come to the parliament when the opposition doesn’t allow him to speak,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told The Express Tribune right before attending the second round of talks with opposition to decide modalities for the rest of the budget session.
Since PM Imran’s first speech, the foreign minister said, the opposition parties have made a habit of interrupting him as well as lawmakers from treasury benches, which can’t be tolerated anymore.
Qureshi said the reason the opposition got a taste of their own medicine was the fact that the prime minister has not been allowed to speak in the house in the last two-and-a-half years.
Qureshi said neither the premier nor the treasury benches are heard uninterrupted but the opposition expects that they should not face any heckling when they take the floor.
“Opposition is free to criticize the government policies and budget proposals but the attacks should not be personal and they should have patience to listen to the government side,” he said. “The government and the opposition are like two wheels of a vehicle and both the wheels have to move together.”
The foreign minister pointed out that it was the opposition’s women lawmakers who had invaded the treasury benches when the budget speech was being delivered, saying things could have quickly escalated when lawmakers from both sides had a heated exchange the other day.
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Qureshi said that the opposition can criticize the budget while staying within limits as “one-way traffic will not be allowed in the parliament” and the opposition will have to listen to government members.
The PML-N lawmakers – Ahsan Iqbal, Rana Tanvir and Sardar Ayaz Sadiq – while condemning the government’s move to stop Shehbaz from delivering his speech claimed that the Monday’s unruly behavior from the treasury benches was unprecedented and was staged at the behest of the PM.
“The pandemonium erupted on the orders of the prime minister,” Iqbal said during media talk right outside the Parliament House.
Irked by the government side’s allegedly rude behaviour during the talks, the PML-N leadership announced that the party has decided not to attend any meeting with the NA speaker when the members from the treasury benches are present.
In the media talk, they used the words “fascist” and “puppet” for the ruling party, calling the premier a follower of Hitler and accusing him of making Pakistan a one-party dictatorship.
Tanvir said the leader of the opposition is equal to the prime minister in the National Assembly and stopping him from expressing his views on the budget through rowdy behaviour is bad for the parliament.
Later, the government presented a code of conduct to the opposition for holding the rest of the NA budget sessions. According to sources, both sides will be bound to abide by the code of conduct.
The house will assist the speaker’s in decision-making and the members would refrain from indecent and non-parliamentary language during the general discussion on budget.
According to the code of conduct, the speaker will take action on the violation which shall be acceptable to all; no one would be allowed to make videos inside the house; carrying placards to the other side would not be allowed and slogans and protests should be within parliamentary limits.
The house will resume proceedings at 4pm today.
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