Kerfuffle in the House over the chair

PTI calls out PPP senator for presiding over the session in presence of deputy chairman

Our Correspondent June 08, 2024


The upper house of parliament on Friday saw tensions flare as the treasury and opposition lawmakers locked horns over the presiding authority with the PTI calling out PPP Senator Palwasha Khan for chairing the session in the presence of Deputy Chairman Senate Syedal Khan Nasir.

Initially, Chairman Yousuf Raza Gilani presided over the proceedings but left 40 minutes into the session, after which Senator Palwasha took the chair.

This drew immediate criticism from PTI Senator Fauzia Arshad, who lamented, "Regrettably, Palwasha is presiding while the deputy chairman is present." Palwasha countered, saying it was the chairman's prerogative to make that decision and that the deputy chairman had arrived after she had already begun officiating the proceedings.

Repeatedly interrupted by Senator Arshad, Palwasha kept on urging the opposition lawmakers to decide among themselves who they wanted to speak next.

Leader of the opposition in the Senate Shibli Faraz said, "Don’t make a mockery of the House and don’t damage its sanctity. This is no way that you seat the deputy chairman, who has a role in the chairman’s absence, and make him a decoration piece."

A heated exchange followed between the opposition leader and Palwasha, with the latter insisting the deputy chairman arrived after her. Faraz maintained that Nasir was already seated in the Senate. Palwasha asked the opposition leader to mind his tone, to which the senator questioned her manner of speaking.

"I am speaking to you the same way you’re speaking to me," she retorted before turning to the treasury benches and giving the mic to Rana Mehmoodul Hassan.

As the shouting continued from the opposition benches, Palwasha chastised them, saying, "Fine, continue to create a ruckus. I choose to ignore you." She then ordered PPP Senator Farooq Naek be given the mic, stating, "I do not fall for this hooliganism, and this cannot go on."

Faraz interrupted Naek, calling it "shameful" that the PML-N had sent its own chairman out of the House. Palwasha shot back, "It’s alright, he doesn’t have an issue with this."

Naek defended Palwasha's role, stating, "The Senate chairman gives a list of presiding officers. Who presides in his absence is the prerogative of the chairman. He can tell any presiding officer to preside over the session. And the way you are presiding right now, this is within the Senate rules."

Palwasha echoed his sentiment, asserting, "The purpose of this uproar is just disruption."

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Senator Attaur Rehman added that the session should start after the chairman and deputy chairman arrive, deeming it inappropriate for someone else to preside while the deputy chairman was present.

"It would be better if you call the deputy chairman to come sit in this seat, that will be appropriate, otherwise, we will walk out against this behaviour," Rehman said. Palwasha responded that her role was by the rules.

The opposition benches began chanting "chor, chor" (thief, thief) while PML-N Senator Talal Chaudhry commented, "I want to thank the opposition leader and PTI that they have so much love for the PML-N deputy chairman. They only have to protest and don’t look at the rules or situation; they only play to the gallery."

The presiding officer subsequently adjourned the meeting till 5pm on Monday.

Meanwhile, the session also debated the contentious issue of women having to carry their ex-husband’s name on passports. Senator Samina Mumtaz called it "ridiculous" and questioned the logic behind such a law, suggesting the identity card should bear the father’s name instead.

"Instead of improving our passport rankings, we’re discriminating against women," she said. "If you want women to carry the names of their ex-husbands, then make men carry the names of their ex-wives too."

Senator Riaz Pirzada noted that the high court had struck down the proposal and given women the option to add their father’s name. He recommended referring the matter to the standing committee for consultation.

Senator Faraz agreed, highlighting the need to update family laws as the current situation posed problems for many women and families. Senator Rehman concurred but suggested seeking the opinion of the Islamic Ideology Council, a proposal that faced objections from women senators.

Chairman Gilani concluded by referring the matter to the standing committee, noting that issues concerning women and minorities fell under his jurisdiction.


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