National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri on Thursday directed Adviser to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan to take up the issue of ministers’ absence from assembly sessions in the cabinet meeting.
The deputy speaker's directives came after it emerged that Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry was found absent and no other official from the ministry was present to answer the questions raised during the question hour.
“Who will answer these questions,” the deputy speaker asked the PM’s adviser, who conceded that the minister concerned should have been in the session to answer the questions.
“We were not even informed if someone else would come to answer than the minister himself,” the deputy speaker observed.
Initially, Suri deferred the question for a little while but before he could move ahead with the assembly proceedings, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) once again raised the issue of ministers’ absenteeism from the sessions.
PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, while criticising the “frequent” absence of ministers, assured the deputy speaker that the whole opposition would stand with him if he takes action against such officials.
“Take action against the minister deputy speaker Sahib,” Abbasi stated. “The ministers must be here [in NA] to answer questions.”
Subsequently, the deputy speaker directed the SAPM to put the issue before the federal cabinet, as he attended cabinet meetings in the capacity of the premier's adviser.
Before coming to power, PM Imran had made a commitment that he would attend the assembly sessions at least twice a month to answer the lawmakers’ questions.
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However, that didn’t happen. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had earlier revealed that the sole reason for the prime minister being unable to come and speak on the floor of the house, from his first speech in parliament in 2018, was that the opposition frequently marred assembly proceedings in his presence.
“When we ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to come to parliament he questions us why should he come to parliament when the opposition doesn’t allow him to speak,” Qureshi had said.
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