Upper house of parliament Friday witnessed a breach in its years-long tradition of nonviolence after opposition and treasury benches went into a serious verbal brawl.
The scene turned ugly to the point that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) walked out of the house protesting “disrespect shown to its senior member Senator Mian Raza Rabbani by the members from opposition.”
It all started with Senator Rabbani seeking reply on government’s failure to extend duration of the job quota of provinces on federal government posts and demanded the matter be sent to Privileges Committee of the Senate.
Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq blamed the PPP government of PPP for not doing anything to get the duration extended in the last five years.
PPP’s senator said the deadline of August 13 expired in the present government’s term. He said the government did not send the matter to Council of Common Interests (CCI) depriving the smaller provinces of their right.
“We are here to raise our voices for the rights of the smaller provinces,” said Rabbani. Here, the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, stood up to reply Rabbani but the Deputy Chairman of Senate Sabir Ali Baloch asked him to sit down as it was not his department.
Senator Mushahidullah Khan stood up to protest against the deputy chairman’s snub but he too was asked to sit down and observe the decorum. But Khan retaliated, blaming Baloch for not being impartial.
“Do not try to run the House like a Jiyala. You should give equal opportunities to both the sides,” Khan told Baloch.
This triggered a verbal brawl that saw Senators Rabbani and Abbasi coming face to face. Members from both treasury and opposition benches had to intervene to keep the two from getting into a scuffle.
Baloch ordered turning off the mikes of both the Senators and later directed to expunge the non-parliamentary comments from the proceedings of the House.
After the brawl, Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan and PPP Senators staged a walkout in protest.
Minutes later, Leader of the House informed the Senate that the matter of extending the jobs’ quota had already been sent to Cabinet for its approval and agreed to send the issue to the privileges committee.
“Things would not have gone this bad if you had provided this answer earlier,” Baloch said to Haq who replied that the chair was not letting him speak.
Haq along with other senior members of the House later went to speak to the protesting PPP Senators and managed to bring them back to their seats. Rabbani and Abbasi exchanged embraces and both of them apologised to the House for breaking its tradition of nonviolence.
The drama consumed so much time that the House had to postpone its scheduled discussion on President’s address to the parliament for Tuesday before the deputy chairman adjourned the proceedings for Monday.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2013.