The second day of the National Assembly session was business as usual, contrary to the first day’s proceedings wherein the prime minister’s absence created furor among opposition parties, who criticised the government’s indecision with regards to a strategy on countering terrorism.
While this issue was put on the backburner, the government was censured once more after the Muttahida Qaumi Movement was refused permission to move a ‘resolution of disapproval’ against the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO).
PML-N lawmaker Tariq Fazal Chaudhry – who chaired the session in the absence of Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq – adjourned the proceedings amid catcalls of ‘shame’ from the opposition benches.
Earlier, the house debated whether the government should take steps to resolve the issue of construction of dams by India on Pakistani waters. The debate veered to discussion of Kalabagh Dam, with Aftab Ahmad Sherpao of Qaumi Wattan Party and Amir Haider Khan Hoti from the ANP and lawmakers from the PPP opposing any move regarding construction of the controversial dam.
PML-N’s Marvi Memon reiterated the prime minister’s statement that projects such as Kalabagh dam were not the government’s priority. Meanwhile, an MNA from the Jamaat-e-Islami suggested that the word ‘kala’ (black) in ‘Kalabagh dam’ should be replaced with the word ‘sabz’ (green) in order to resolve the issue. Sherpao added that three provinces had adopted resolutions against the dam and therefore its construction would be dangerous for the country.
Additionally, two PPP MNAs demanded that, owing to his absence of more than 40 days, the prime minister should be disqualified from attending sessions, as per the rules.
Four bills were introduced in the session and referred to standing committees for further input. A bill regarding an increase in the seats of minorities has been introduced, which says that under Article 36 of the Constitution, the state is obliged to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities. Presently, under Article 51 (4), 10 seats are reserved for non-Muslim in the assembly. There were 10 reserved seats for non-Muslims, when the number of general seats was 207.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2014.
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