ISLAMABAD: The Nati-onal Assembly will initiate a debate on a resolution calling for the protection of the sanctity of the Prophethood of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on Friday as a resolution was presented in the House on Tuesday to debate the French envoy's expulsion.
Two separate resolutions were presented in NA – one by ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Amjad Ali Khan and the other by state minister for parliamentary affairs Ali Muhammad Khan – amid the boycott of proceedings by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
All major political parties except PPP attended the session as the government had specially convened the session for a vote on the expulsion of the French ambassador from Pakistan – one of the key demands by defunct Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
However, before a vote could take place on the resolution, the NA Speaker Asad Qaiser announced the formation of a special committee to discuss the matter and asked the treasury and opposition benches to engage with each other to develop consensus on the issue.
At the start of the session, PTI lawmaker Amjad Ali Khan moved a resolution condemning the publication of blasphemous caricatures by French magazine Charlie Hebdo in September last year.
It also regretted the French president’s "encouragement of the elements hurting the sentiments of the hundreds of millions of Muslims in the name of freedom of expression".
The resolution asked for a debate to be held on the issue of expelling the French ambassador from Pakistan, and to "apprise all European countries, especially France, of the gravity of this matter".
It further said detailed discussions on the matter should be held with all Muslim countries and it should be taken up jointly on international forums.
"This house also demands that the state should decide matters of international relations and no person, group or party can exert unnecessary illegal pressure in this regard," Amjid said while reading out the resolution, which also called upon the provincial governments to allocate specific sites for protests in all districts so that citizens' daily life was not disrupted.
The PTI lawmaker also sought the formation of a special committee to consider the resolution regarding the matter which he termed "highly sensitive". This motion was adopted.
Following the MNA's request, the state minister for parliamentary affairs also presented a separate resolution for the formation of a committee.
The resolution, after a voice vote, was declared by NA Speaker as approved by the parliament, amid loud chants of objection by the opposition.
Speaking during the session, PML-N MNA Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the entire country was ‘unanimous’ on the issue of the protection of Namoos-e-Risalat. "This resolution should have been unanimous. You adjourned the House yesterday and called it today. You and the government did not bother to talk to the opposition regarding the purpose of calling the session," Abbasi said, addressing Speaker Asad Qaiser.
“You wanted to bring a resolution, the right way is to talk to the opposition,” he said, adding, “There is no difference of opinion on Tahaffuz-r-Namoos-i-Risalat and Khatm-e-Nabuwwat”.
"This resolution is inadequate," the PML-N leader said, requesting that the opposition be given an hour to study the draft and suggest any additions so that the resolution could be passed unanimously today and a debate could be started. He said there was no need for a special committee.
"You [the Speaker] have paralysed this House for three years and turned it into an arena of abuse and cursing," he alleged, requesting the Chair to allow the opposition to present a comprehensive version of the resolution.
Later, in an unfortunate turn of events, a heated exchange took place between Abbasi and NA Speaker. The incident happened after a resolution for the formation of a committee was accepted by the Speaker.
It cannot be concretely said what actually sparked Abbasi's anger.
Abbasi approached the NA Speaker podium, saying: “You are making it [...] controversial. Do you any shame”.
"Hold your tongue," said the NA Speaker in response. "You always speak such things and behave in such a manner."
As things intensified, Abbasi shouted: "I’ll hit you with my shoe."
“I too will do such a thing then. Don’t cross the limits," the Speaker said to Abbasi, asking him to return to his seat.
Responding to him, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said the government desired a debate on the issue.
He said the resolution based on the exact discussions held between the government and the TLP was moved by a private member and therefore the government did not plan to make changes to it, however, "whatever the entire House considers appropriate will be done."
In his remarks, Maulana Asad Mehmood of the JUI-F said Prime Minister Imran Khan had given his government's policy statement in a national address on Monday evening, which he said the ministers could not do in the parliament that day.
“The prime minister did a good job of adding fuel to the fire,” Mehmood alleged, saying it was surprising for his party who held negotiations with the TLP after the government had announced its policy (of cracking down on the TLP).
"We had demanded that you bring the agreements here ... there was a ban on media, the facts of what happened in Lahore three days ago were not shown. I demand that the media be given full freedom to show the blood-letting of TLP workers. The government should be bound that Tahaffuz-i-Namoos-i-Risalat and Khatm-i-Nabuwwat is part of our belief," he said.
The JUI-F MNA said the House was united on the part about Namoos-i-Risalat in the resolution, but the opposition found its second part to be inadequate in light of the current situation in the country. He also condemned the "atrocity and violence" carried out by the government against TLP activists.
“Regarding the development last night, the parliament should be made aware who actually negotiated with the TLP," he said, referring to the headway in talks between the government and the TLP.
He criticised the government for allegedly not taking the opposition into confidence before calling the emergency session. "I believe the whole parliament should be turned into a committee," Mehmood said, adding that he was under the impression that the government would present a resolution calling for the French ambassador to be expelled but the wording of the resolution was "weak".
"Why did you maintain criminal silent for three months? Why didn't you initiate debate on this in three months?" he asked the treasury benches.
He warned the government against "bulldozing" the resolution through the assembly, saying if it ignored the opposition, "I swear on oath, I will not let you run the parliament."
Taking the floor, Religious Affairs Minister Qadri said after the TLP activists took to the streets and were supported by a number of political and religious parties, adding that it was the duty of both the government and the opposition to listen to their stance.
"We should walk on a path that instead of blood-letting and solving problems on streets, we solve them in parliament. This resolution is the conclusion of that thought and determination," he added.
He said the National Assembly was a protector of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat and Section 295-C of the Constitution ensured Namoos-e-Risalat. He termed the resolution presented on Tuesday as a positive step.
"Imran Khan has done full diplomacy for Namoos-e-Risalat, he has taken it to all corners of the world. I believe more steps need to be taken regarding this matter in the UN [United Nations] and OIC [Organisation of Islamic Conference]," the minister said.
He then addressed the opposition legislators, who were chanting slogans against the government, saying: "We saw your emotions when resolutions on Khatm-e-Nabuwwat were being bulldozed here, [Mumtaz] Qadri was being hugged, when 22 innocent people at Faizabad were being shot and killed [and] you have seen the Model Town incident. On the other hand, there is Imran Khan. It is a twist of fate that you have been forced to chant these slogans now."
Qadri asked the opposition to give their recommendations regarding the resolution in the special committee after 2 to 3 days, saying this was not a matter of one hour.
The speaker urged both sides not to do politics on what he said was a "very sensitive matter". He said the resolution had not been passed yet and they could debate it.
PML-N's Ahsan Iqbal said the "narrative" presented by Qadri was the same which he paid for "with a bullet" – referring to him being shot at and injured in 2018 by a suspect who showed affiliation with the TLP.
Speaking about the background of the TLP's 2017 protest regarding an amendment to the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat oath in the Elections Act, 2017, he said: "In 2017, PTI people were in that committee, what happened through this parliament was unanimous but when reservations were expressed, the parliament reversed it (the amendment) without even questioning whether it was needed because when it comes to Namoos-e-Risalat, we cannot tolerate that there is even an iota of doubt in someone's mind."
Stressing that respect and love for the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is part of every Muslim's faith, Iqbal accused the government of doing "politics on Namoos-e-Risalat". He said "nobody has the right to give a certificate on someone else's faith."
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021