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ISLAMABAD: The Lower House of the Parliament saw a tumultuous session on Tuesday following exchange of verbal 'skirmishes' between the lawmakers from Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri who had to adjourn the House proceedings abruptly due to lack of quorum.

Things escalated to hostility during National Assembly session when the PPP demanded that its legislator Qadir Patel be given the floor on a point of order. However, the deputy speaker, who was presiding over the session, refused to entertain the opposition's request saying Patel's name was not in the list of the speakers the PPP had provided to him.

The deputy speaker then gave the floor to Riaz Hussain Pirzada from Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N).

Senior PPP leader and former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf interrupted and requested the deputy speaker to give the floor to Patel but Suri plainly refused.

"This is not possible. Everyone would be allowed to speak only on their turn," he said which infuriated the PPP lawmakers who started protesting and asked the deputy speaker to follow the rules of the House proceedings.

A visibly perturbed Suri responded in the same coin "Don't teach me the rules. I know the rules. I come well prepared before presiding over the meeting of this House, and read the rules. What you are demanding is the violation of rules. Rules do not allow anyone to speak out of turn. I will allow anyone to speak only when it's his/her turn. I cannot be forced to do something that is not allowed by the rules."

The deputy speaker then reiterated that he would not allow the House to be 'held hostage by anyone.' "It is for me to decide who will speak and who will not. I cannot allow someone to speak on the sweet will of his/her political party. No one can take the floor forcibly," he said.

Things further escalated when the PPP's Shazia Mari wanted to take the floor but Suri refused to allow her to speak out of turn. "It's been quite a while since we are trying to speak but you are not allowing. It seems that you are specifically targeting us. We condemn this behaviour," she addressed the deputy speaker as the PPP's female lawmakers gathered in front of the Chair and started protesting.

Sensing the gravity of the situation, the deputy speaker announced a 15-minute prayer break. After the break, the tension defused when Patel was given the floor to speak.

In his speech, Patel strongly criticized the federal government and Prime Minister Imran Khan. A recent decision of the Supreme Court regarding National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has exposed 'NAB-Niazi nexus' he said. "There was once a dacoit who did not spend a penny from his pocket. All his expenses were borne by his accomplices. A similar dacoit has been imposed on us who is the king of all dacoits," Patel said. This prompted the Chair to intervene and reprimand Patel. "Don't give such examples in this respectable House," Suri told Patel. "I haven't named anyone," Patel replied.

The deputy speaker then gave the floor to Federal Minister for Communication Murad Saeed. The firebrand Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader was ready to respond to Patel's allegations before PPP's Agha Rafiullah pointed out the quorum, prompting the Chair to order counting of the participants present in the House. Upon counting, the quorum was found to be lacking and the Chair adjourned the National Assembly session till Thursday.

Earlier, PML-N's Javed Latif, while speaking on the floor of the House, also said the Supreme Court's decision regarding NAB exposed the accountability watchdog. "Keeping this decision in view, some very important matters need to be reviewed involving sacked judge Arshad Malik, former Justice Qayyum Malik and Panamagate," he said.

In his speech, Riaz Pirzada demanded a briefing from the government's side on the losses in agriculture sector caused by locusts' attacks.

Meanwhile, Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA) staged a walkout from the press gallery during National Assembly proceedings to protest against the abduction of journalist Matiullah Jan from Islamabad on Tuesday. The opposition also staged a token walkout against Jan's abduction after the issue was raised in the House by PPP Parliamentary Leader Naveed Qamar. The opposition returned to the House on the request of Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan who was instructed by the deputy speaker to bring the opposition back in the House. The PRA has announced that it would stage a walkout from the press gallery during Senate session today (Wednesday) against Jan's abduction.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020