ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly may have witnessed its first physical fight on Thursday had some lawmakers not intervened in a feud between members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement ( MQM).
The sordid episode began when Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the PML-N criticised MQM chief Altaf Hussain for a statement in which he accused the PML-N of trying to bring a no-trust motion against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
Nisar then ridiculed Altaf and his party for constantly quitting and rejoining the government. He also called MQM a fascist party that maintains a militant wing to further its politics by spreading terror.
But what really enraged MQM’s Sajid Ahmad were Nisar’s indirect comments on Altaf Hussain’s personal life.
Then, enraged by the MQM’s remarks against the PML-N during Nisar’s speech, N-League’s lawmaker Abid Sher Ali tried to jump over his desk to hit Ahmad. Fortunately, Sher Ali was stopped just in time. However, verbal exchanges between the two continued with frequent use of abusive language.
MQM lawmakers, including Wasim Ahmed, and some women members tried to defuse the situation by asking their party member to stop shouting at Sher Ali.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khursheed Shah also rushed to the opposition benches to ensure that the parliamentarians do not hit each other.
At one point, Sher Ali picked up a bundle of parliamentary committee reports to throw it at the MQM legislator, but, once again, was stopped by another party member.
Hanif Abbasi and Shakeel Awan, PML-N parliamentarians from Rawalpindi, also joined the verbal attack, but were able to better control their tempers.
All members from the MQM stood up and started thumping their desks and shouting to interrupt Nisar’s speech.
Earlier, the opposition leader’s speech had started with a threat to the government to block a bill seeking the establishment of Defence Housing Authority, a military-dominated real estate venture.
Nisar said the passage of this bill would mean parliamentary endorsement to a real estate tycoon allegedly involved in land grabbing. Although Khan did not mention any names, his apparent reference was to Malik Riaz of Bahria Town, who is an emerging political rival to him in Rawalpindi.
Nisar then called for holding a parliamentary debate on the accusations former Sindh home minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza levelled against the MQM and its chief at a news conference in August this year.
Responding to Nisar’s speech, MQM’s Asif Hasnain said the PML-N was in political isolation and its statements against the government and its allies were a result of the party’s frustration.
Hasnain called Nisar a conspirator and said his party would not mind if Mirza’s allegations were investigated, but did not say whether the MQM was also in favour of a parliamentary debate on the matter.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2011.