Ruckus in parliament: Joint sitting veers off track as PPP, PML-N trade slurs

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  • Mushahidullah Khan takes Zardari, Bilawal to task while Aitzaz Ahsan accuses ruling PML-N of isolating Pakistan because of its failure to act against ‘non-state actors’

The joint session of both houses of parliament summoned to discuss unprovoked Indian aggression in Indian-held Kashmir was marred by slurs and allegations, as parliamentarians from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) got into a war of words over petty political differences.

The situation worsened after PML-N’s Senator Mushahidullah Khan blamed the PPP leadership for corruption and nepotism after a hard hitting speech delivered by PPP Senator Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan.

Responding to Mushahidullah Khan’s slurs, PPP lawmakers raised the slogan “Modi ka jo yaar hai/ ghaddar hai, ghaddar hai” (whoever is friends with Modi is a traitor), referring to Nawaz-Modi friendship.

Earlier, senior PPP leader Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan blamed the PML-N government for isolating Pakistan at the international level because of its failure to take action against “non-state actors”. He said the government had been helpless in instituting curbs on the movement of non-state actors under the National Action Plan (NAP). “Such characters continue to hold protests, rallies and deliver speeches in major cities like Islamabad, Lahore, Faisalabad and Karachi,” Aitzaz went on to say without naming anyone.

The PPP leader also criticised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for not mentioning Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly session last month. He said the premier still was not willing to name Indian spies publicly which reflected his suspicious attitude.

Aitzaz grilled the ruling PML-N for not issuing a categorical statement on Indian allegations of Pakistan’s involvement in Uri attack. “Saying we believe Pakistan has no hand in the Uri attack is not a categorical denial,” he said, adding the phrase implied “we don’t know if our non-state actors are behind it”.

Aitzaz held PM Nawaz Sharif responsible for Pakistan’s diplomatic isolation, as the premier was also the foreign minister. “Pakistan’s isolation is Nawaz Sharif’s personal failure,” he said.

Aitzaz called on the government to take up the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) matter internationally and present Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir. He said the PPP would stand by the government to express unity over the Kashmir issue.

He also asked the government to remove the discord between the provincial governments over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to dispel the notion that it was Punjab-centric. “The impression that CPEC is the China-Punjab Economic Corridor is not acceptable. The $46 billion CPEC investment is not more important than national unity,” he said.

The PPP leader urged the premier and his family to present themselves for accountability, saying Nawaz Sharif would only be able to look in the eyes of his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi once he cleared himself in the Panama Leaks issue.

Aitzaz also blamed the prime minister for postponement of this year’s South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit.

In response to Aitzaz’s remarks, PML-N’s Mushahidullah Khan said the premier was a man of deed and not word. The strong-worded speech by the treasury member left a bad taste in the mouth of members of opposition parties, particularly the PPP, turning the joint sitting into a bout.

During his speech, Mushahidullah was interrupted time and again, with sloganeering by the opposition, for accusing PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari of corruption, despite repeated interventions by National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq for trying to limit him to the Kashmir issue alone.

About RAW spy Jhadav, Mushahidullah said a dossier was presented to the UN secretary general about Jhadav with evidence. The senator also took PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto to task over his media talk, and said the PPP would not win the 2018 elections as their leaders would be in jail while PM Nawaz would again come into power.

Mushahidullah also claimed that the PPP had refused to support the Kashmir issue during Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s tenure in the 1990s. He also blamed Aitzaz Ahsan, the then interior minister, for providing lists of Sikh freedom fighters to the then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, saying late Gandhi had expressed his thanks to the PPP leadership for the backdoor deal. “After this list had been given to the Indian government, many Sikh freedom fighters were killed,” he went on to say.

At this point, the tolerance level of Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Khursheed Shah crossed all levels and he complained against the senator’s remarks.

“If the government thinks the opposition will keep silent and you will keep targeting us, we are not going to do that. A party (PTI) has already boycotted the house and now you want us to follow the suit too, despite the fact that we are supporting you,” he remarked. Having said that, Shah stood for a walkout but the speaker intervened and asked him to review his decision.

Mushahidullah later apologised for his strong language.

Later, on a point of personal explanation, Aitzaz denied the charge of providing any list of Sikhs to Rajiv Gandhi’s government, saying, “If there is any proof, then try me in a court of law. I am always maligned on this matter. Today I ask the government to register a case against me if they find me guilty.”

PML-N leader Abdul Qayyum said lasting peace in South Asia would remain obscure till resolution of the Kashmir issue.

PPP leader Naveed Qamar said the entire Pakistani nation was united against any foreign aggression. He also called for an effective and proactive foreign policy to show the world what India was doing in Kashmir.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai said the Kashmir issue should be resolved peacefully through dialogue.

Col (r) Tahir Hussain Mashahidi said Pakistan was a proud nation and it would not be subdued or bullied. He said Indian forces were committing atrocities against unarmed innocent Kashmiri people. “Kashmiri people have done nothing wrong; they are only asking for their fundamental and irrevocable right of self-determination as accordance with the UNSC resolutions.”