ISLAMABAD: The joint session of the parliament witnessed a charged atmosphere here on Wednesday as treasury and opposition benches exchanged insults, shouted slogans, physically threatened each other, tore apart copies of the agenda, and encircled the speaker’s dais.
The moment National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser took up the agenda to pass the controversial electoral reforms bill coupled with host of other bills – which were either not presented within the prescribed period of 90 days or rejected by the Senate – the enraged opposition MPs, especially the backbenchers encircled the speaker’s dais.
The opposition lawmakers led by opposition leaders in the NA and the Senate – Shehbaz Sharif and Yousaf Raza Gillani – encircled the speaker’s dais, tearing the copies of the agenda. Some MPs even started shouting at Qaiser, while others threw copies and torn pieces of papers at the speaker.
At one point, a visibly angered speaker warned PPP’s Abdul Qadir Mandokheil that he would throw him out of the house if he did not mend his ways. He then drew the attention of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari towards the grim attitude of his party MNA.
Electoral reforms, EVMs and NAB: Speaker seeks Shehbaz's role and cooperation
But, the protesting opposition lawmakers continued with their anti-government slogans, leaving the speaker with no option but to proceed with voice vote to pass the bills after counting of the members became literally impossible due to pandemonium in the house.
This led to a walkout by the joint opposition, paving the way for NA speaker to smoothly run the proceedings.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also attended the session. Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed along with his nephew Sheikh Rashid Shafique made it to the house despite, death of his (Rasheed’s) brother on Wednesday morning.
Naveed Qamar of the PPP could not attend the session as he was suffering from dengue, while Akhter Mengal and Yousaf Talpur were thought to be abroad.
The incarcerated MNA, Ali Wazir, also could not get production orders to attend the all-important conclave.
Taking the floor, the opposition leader in National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif categorically rejected the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), while calling them as “evil vicious machines”, which he claimed are being “planted” to steal the next elections.
He accused the government of calling the joint sitting in haste despite making a commitment with the opposition to postpone it in order to make an inclusive legislation by taking all stakeholders onboard.
NA speaker asks Shehbaz Sharif to play role in legislation
Sharif said that there were always allegations of rigging during the elections but this was the first time in history that there were allegations of rigging before the elections.
He said that the “selected government” wanted to introduce the EVMs because it could no longer ask the people for votes as skyrocketing inflation has made life of common man miserable.
He called upon NA speaker to defer the joint session, so a comprehensive consultation could take place on electoral reforms and other important matters.
The chairman Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the opposition would never accept the legitimacy of 2023 elections, if they were held on the EVMs.
“How can a guy enjoying the luxuries of California or Paris decide about our fate…this is not possible that the vote is cast in Paris and the result comes from Multan,” he regretted in an emotional anti-government diatribe.
He extended a hand of willingness to ruling lot for forging unity over thorny issues of legislation in the wider national interest.
He categorically accused Qaiser of violating the sanctity of his position by dishonouring his commitment with the opposition by first inviting them for consultation over electoral reforms and then convening parliament’s joint session, which was tantamount to dishonesty.
A ‘fearful’ govt postpones joint sitting of parliament
The parliamentary leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), Asad Mehmood, said that the opposition was ready to give suggestions on bills, but the government hurriedly called the joint sitting.
He also advised the government to take on board all the political parties on the issues presently confronting the country.
Responding to the opposition, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the EVMs are being introduced to bury the “evil intentions and designs” of the opposition to steal the public mandate.
“Shehbaz said that the government wanted to introduce a black law. Absolutely not, the government wants to wash away the blackness of the past,” he added.
The government did not want to bulldoze legislation, he said, adding “we consulted the opposition so that their reservations are addressed but they were not serious”.
“If we didn’t have the numbers, how are we presenting these bills today,” he added.
Giving voting right to overseas Pakistani, he said expatriates were the nation’s asset and the government wanted to involve them in policy and decision-making.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021
Comments are closed.