Govt strikes a defiant note in NA

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As all critical cases against the top Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leadership, including the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) case, the memo case, the presidential reference on the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto case and the contempt of court case, appear to be reaching their logical conclusion in a month or so, the government on Wednesday went berserk in the National Assembly when even the usually cool-headed Syed Khurshid Shah, amidst heated arguments across the political divide, also lost his patience and blasted the courts and the judicial commission, saying “I don’t care about any contempt notice”. Surprisingly, after Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s harsh criticism of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) for ‘dramatising’ the creation of Saraiki and Hazara provinces in the National Assembly without
having representation in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, another Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) central leader Ahsan Iqbal offered support of 92 PML-N MNAs to the Awami National Party (ANP) and the MQM to form a government “to get rid of the incompetent and corrupt PPP government”.
Amid shouts of “electricity thieves” and “gas thieves” by the PML-N parliamentarians and “tandoor thieves” from the PPP side, Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khurshid Shah said the Supreme Court should take suo motu notice to determine who was responsible for the current energy crisis in the country.
“If suo motu notices can be taken on small pieces of paper, why can such actions not be taken on such serious issues? We are not afraid of contempt of court notices,” Shah said.
At one stage, Water and Power Minister Naveed Qamar asked PML-N lawmakers to avoid indulging in politics of allegations otherwise the quarrel between politicians might encourage the “third force” to send democratic parties packing.
In a bid to settle scores, Shah started pointing out the misconduct of the PML-N in Punjab. He said there was a Rs 120 billion deficit in Punjab. “They will also attempt to close the BISP (Benazir Income Support Programme) in future, which is associated with 7 million poor families of this country,” he said.
He also raised the issue of the pardon that was given by former president Pervez Musharraf during his tenure, saying the NRO was comparatively respectable. Shah made this point when the PML-N lawmakers were taunting the PPP-led government by chanting “NRO” during his speech. “We are ready for accountability so the opposition should avoid levelling allegations,” he added.
Nisar also claimed that PML-N President Nawaz Sharif had not said the PML-N would establish military courts again to control law and order in Karachi. “I, on behalf of Nawaz Sharif and the party, clarify that he never said in Karachi that if he come into power, he would establish military courts. Nawaz Sharif was just referring to military courts which the PML-N set up in its past government to control law and order in Karachi,” he said while speaking on a point of order.
He criticised Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for his speech in the House in which he had strongly condemned Nawaz’s remarks about establishing military courts in Karachi. “It has been the tradition of the House to not hit out at anyone who is not the member of this House.
Nawaz had just said that his civilian government had used military courts for restoration of peace in Karachi. The PML-N and its leadership completely reject the idea of establishing military courts in any part of the country,” Nisar said.
Sharing background of establishment of military courts in Karachi during the PML-N government, Ch Nisar said that the decision had been taken by the cabinet. “I had opposed the idea strongly but it was passed with majority vote, then the Supreme Court termed those courts against law and we accepted apex court’s decision without any protest,” he said. Nisar said the PML-N was not only against military courts but it also opposed military operations in the country.
Speaking about the controversy over the creation of new provinces in the House in the last session, Nisar said the PML-N was not against creation of new provinces in the country but it was a sensitive matter that should be dealt with carefully and under the constitution.
Without naming the MQM, he said the party that was demanding Saraiki and Hazara provinces in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had not a single seat in provincial assemblies of both provinces.
He said the PML-N was not against Bahawalpur, Hazara or any other province but opposed the creation of provinces along linguistic lines. “If provinces are created on the basis of language, it will create unending unrest in the country. Punjab can afford provinces on lingual basis but other provinces will not be able to bear the process,” he said, adding that the prime minister should represent the whole country instead of representing only Saraiki people.
He demanded the formation of a high-level commission on the creation of new provinces. “In all countries where new provinces were created, they were made by commissions. We will have to reach consensus on numerous issues such as grounds of divisions, assets, liabilities, seats of representation in the Senate, etc,” he said, adding that through the slogan of new provinces the government was trying to divert the people’s attention from real issues.
“Since the government knows it will be rejected by the people in the next elections for their bad governance and corruption, they are trying to win the people’s support through this slogan,” he asserted.
During Nisar’s speech, Jamshed Dasti of the PPP chanted the slogan of “Long live the Saraiki province”, to which the PML-N lawmakers responded with shouts of “Fake degree”.
Responding to the PML-N’s criticism of power outages, Qamar said the prime minister would inaugurate the Kunnar project next week, which would be helpful in meeting the demand in the gas sector in future. “Mere point-scoring and blame game would not work as this is not the way to do politics,” he added.
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said a committee was formed to oversee the power crisis but in three months, only four meetings were held. Qamar replied that it was the prerogative of the committee’s chairman to call meetings.
In response to Khurshid Shah, PML-N legislator Hanif Abbasi proposed a commission chaired by Shah to analyse the allegations.
The House also passed the Delimitation of Constituencies (Amendment) Bill of 2011, thus brining the provisions of Delimitation of Constituencies Act of 1974 in conformity with Articles 51, 106 and 218 of the constitution as amended by the Constitution (18th Amendment) Act of 2010.
The bill, moved by Law Minister Maula Bakhsh Chandio and already passed by the Senate, stated that on the basis of the population, a total of 17 seats should be allocated to Balochistan in the National Assembly. Similarly, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should be given a total of 43 seats, 35 general and eight reserved for women; Punjab should be given 183 seats, 148 general and 35 reserved for women; Sindh should be given 75, 61 general and 14 reserved for women; FATA should be given 12 seats and the federal capital should get two seats in the National Assembly, he added.
There would be a total of 332 seats in the National Assembly, aside from 10 seats reserved for non-Muslims. Earlier, before passing the bill, the House unanimously allowed PML-N’s Zahid Hamid to introduce two amendments in the bill, which were later passed by the House.
A bill to give effect to the convention on the prohibition of development production and stockpiling of bacteriological and toxin weapons and on their destruction (The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (Implementation) Bill of 2012) was also introduced in the House.