Ruckus in NA mars budget debate

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–PTI lawmakers heckle NA Opp Leader Shehbaz Sharif, Pervaiz Ashraf’s addresses

–Shehbaz Sharif says ‘govt’s attitude will only worsen situation and environment [in the NA] will be strained further’

–Fawad Chaudhry accuses NA Opp leader of politicking over religion 

 

 

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly (NA) budget session was adjourned till Monday without any debate on the finance bill after ruckus caused by bickering between the treasury and opposition members marred the entire proceeding.

At the outset, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers heckled former prime minister and Pakistan people’s Party (PPP) leader Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who tried to speak on a point of order, after NA Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif asked NA Speaker Asad Qaiser to allow Ashraf to speak in his stead. He said Ashraf wanted to say something and he should be given the chance.

The PPP members protested against the non-issuance of former president Asif Ali Zardari’s production orders, who was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Monday.

Ashraf demanded production orders for Zardari. He said the former president was locked up at a distance of three kilometres, but he wasn’t produced in the House to take part in the session.

“He is a former president and his absence in this important session and the non-issuance of his production orders will not be considered a good tradition,” warned the senior PPP leader.

However, the speaker was forced to adjourn the session due to noisy protests by the lawmakers on treasury benches. The session was adjourned for 10 minutes, which didn’t help with ruckus, so Asad Qaiser postponed the sitting till after Friday prayers.

After the prayers, Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri urged Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif to speak first as per the rules of the House. However, Shehbaz insisted that a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JU-F) member speak first.

Suri and PTI lawmakers opposed Shehbaz’s request. Subsequently, Shehbaz, after 30 minutes, started his address with a criticism on the government’s economic policies amid chaos in the house.

He took Imran government to the task for failing to rein in the dollar, saying the government has taken the greenback up “to the skies”. He also took a jibe at the PTI media team, saying their “propaganda machinery” could not hide the government’s “worst performance”.

His criticism was met by loud protests from the government lawmakers, which led to final adjournment of the day. Now the NA will meet on Monday at 4 pm.

GOVT, OPP ACCUSE EACH OTHER OF DISRUPTING SESSION:

Talking to reporters after the session was adjourned, members of both the opposition and treasury benches accused each other for the general pandemonium in the House.

“Everything that happened in the assembly today is the government’s fault. This will only worsen the situation and the environment [in the NA] will be strained further,” said NA Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif.

“What happened today may end up damaging democracy and the democratic process. If the prime minister comes to the assembly tomorrow, I will try hard to not provide him such an environment,” he added.

On the other hand, Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry accused the opposition members of disrupting the session.

“Our demand in today’s National Assembly session was simple. We wanted the opposition to apologise for their conduct during the budget session and the opposition leader would have then been allowed to continue his speech,” he said.

“The JUI-F then kept the leader of the opposition from conducting his speech. This shows the clear divide in the opposition.”

Speaking about Shehbaz Sharif’s insistence that a member of the JUI-F be allowed to speak before him — on a matter pertaining to alleged blasphemy — Fawad said: “PML-N has been the pioneer of politicking over religion. When the TLP [Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan] was holding a dharna (sit-in) over religious matters, it was these same people that kept saying that religion should be kept away from politics and that such acts are to be looked down upon. Now, when it is up to them, they are doing the same.”

Fawad further said that the activity in the NA on Friday had made it clear that the opposition was not interested in discussing the budget proposals.