ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar on Saturday said in consultations with all the political parties, the National Assembly Secretariat is evolving a contingency plan for the upcoming budget session and in case the disease doesn’t die down.
In an exclusive interview with Pakistan Today, Asad Qaisar shrugged away the impression that the parliamentary business had been suspended due to the disease and said that the parliament’s special committee on coronavirus was working to monitor the government’s measures to contain the epidemic.
“The situation is ‘under control’ and we hope to commence the session well before June,” said the speaker.
Parliament’s business has been partially suspended, he said, adding that “we are holding regular meetings. however”. “We have already done with the National Assembly business of 72 days out of the total 130 days. So we have around 58 days left and we would make it.”
The speaker said that he had also formed a parliamentary committee consisting of leaders of major political parties and this committee is monitoring the government’s response to counter the epidemic situation.
“The government presents a progress report to the committee which comes up with innovative ideas on how to take more significant steps to overcome the current situation,” he added.
He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had also directed him to help facilitate the return of pilgrims and overseas Pakistanis.
“I have formed a committee which includes key parliamentarians to facilitate immediate return of Pakistanis went on the religious pilgrimage. We have formed a subcommittee led by Minister for SAFRON Shehryar Afridi to take religious parties on board,” he added.
He said that Federal Secretaries from concerned ministries are also a part of this committee to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
Asked about his experience, Asad Qaisar said that this was the “toughest assembly” to handle as the opposition and the treasury was so polarised. He said that the assembly passed some good legislation during the ongoing parliamentary year.
“It’s good to see the opposition is supporting the government on key legislation which is a good omen”.
Asked to comment on the claims that the speaker was striking a fine balance between the opposition and treasury benches, he said that as custodian of the House, he was trying to run the assembly judiciously.
“Being a custodian of the House, the treasury and the opposition members are equal for me. I am running the affairs in line with the rules and procedures and it’s our responsibility to help frame new laws and rules which benefit the people. We have an understating we can’t politicise the legislation”.
Asked how many acts had been passed by the parliament, Asad Qaisar said that around 45 new acts have been passed by the House while over 100 bills have already been sent to the standing committees.
Asked what measures were taken to provide protection to the parliamentarians during the coronavirus pandemic, he said that elaborate measures were taken to provide a secure environment to the parliamentarians visiting the Parliament House.
He urged the US and EU to lift sanctions on Iran on humanitarian grounds as the pandemic had hit Iran hard. Asked about reaching out to the parliamentarians of the world, Asad Qaisar said that he had written letters to ailing Iranian Speaker Ali Larijani besides his counterparts from EU countries to express solidarity with all the leaders who have been hospitalized due to the contagion. He also wished United Kingdom PM Boris Johnson well.