The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Monday created a ruckus loud enough to force the National Assembly proceedings to end prematurely.
Sporting black armbands, the opposition party’s members outnumbered the treasury benches, and the remaining members of the ruling coalition seemed overpowered by the high-voltage protest on the floor of the house.
Hours before the demonstration began in the lower house, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif warned the premier to step down or face a relentless protest movement.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who has attended nearly every NA session, except of course when on foreign visits, opted to sit out of this one.
However, he did make an appearance in the Senate, which met for the first time since the newly-elected Senators took oath, giving his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) a massive presence in the upper house.
Most of the federal ministers too, stuck with the premier in the Senate. Seats allotted to ministers in the front row of the National Assembly remained vacant.
The desk-thumping, booklet-tearing demonstrations erupted when petroleum minister Dr Asim Hussain rose to respond to a question. PML-N’s Sohail Zia Butt failed to acknowledge Hussain’s stature and mocked: “Who is this man? He cannot answer my question.”
Anti-government slogans such as “go Gilani go” reverberated through the house then and the minister soon realised that any attempts to seek attention by speaking louder would be futile.
Booklets provided to MNAs containing the agenda for the session were torn and tossed towards the general direction of the speaker. Abid Sher Ali turned the heat up a few notches by raising slogans standing right in front of the speaker’s chair.
When Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi offered the floor to a female MNA from the PML-N to answer a question, she retorted: “prior to that, I would like to speak on the Supreme Court’s decision.”
Kundi, however, cut her short saying “No, you cannot discuss that. Thank you very much.” And the microphone went dead before the PML-N parliamentarian.
The next slogan, “Alvida, Alvida, Gilani Alvida” was delivered with more pomp and was accompanied by multi-coloured placards that the protestors drew from their bags. The placards read: “Adlia Mazboot, Pakistan Mazboot” (Strong judiciary, strong Pakistan).
The deputy speaker refused to let the opposition discuss the SC verdict on three more occasions and the question “hour” lasted only 20 minutes.
Other items on the agendas were the Drug Regulatory Ordinance 2012 and a bill to further amend the Chartered Accountants Ordinance, 1961.
Left with little options, Kundi adjourned the unruly session which lasted for about 35 minutes, from 6:25 to 7 pm.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2012.
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