ISLAMABAD: In its first show of power in parliament since the 2013 general elections, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Wednesday created a rumpus in the National Assembly on the issue of Panamagate scam and disrupted the opening day’s proceedings of the winter session.
The PTI lawmakers, who had returned to the house after ending their more than two months’ boycott of parliament, gathered in front of the speaker’s dais and raised full-throated slogans when he gave the floor to Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq, instead of PTI’s parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi, after the speech of Leader of the Opposition Syed Khurshid Shah.
Some of the members tore apart the copies of the agenda and other documents and flung them in the air in front of the dais of the speaker who kept refusing to give the floor to Mr Qureshi, saying he could not deny the government its right to respond to the points raised by Mr Shah.
Besides the PTI lawmakers, independent MNA Jamshed Dasti was also seen active in raising anti-government slogans.
Opposition leader lashes out at Sharif over foreign assets; speaker warns Shah against making incoming CJP controversial
The announcement by Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq that he would not allow the opposition parties to move their privilege motions against the prime minister since the matter was “sub judice” before the court added fuel to the already aggravated situation and the PTI members refused to go back to their seats, despite repeated requests by the chair.
Interestingly, members of the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) did not join the protesting PTI lawmakers and remained on their seats throughout the time.
A number of federal ministers, including Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Law Minister Zahid Hamid, besides Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi went to the opposition benches and asked the PPP leaders to help them bring the house in order.
But all their efforts were in vain and the PTI members kept raising slogans against the prime minister.
Anticipating the opposition’s protest, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had ensured maximum presence of its members, and unlike the past, several key ministers, including Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, were also present in the house.
At one point, the assembly was giving a look of a fish market when the treasury members, led by minority MNA Khalil George, also started raising slogans against PTI chairman Imran Khan, who was not present in the house.
The speaker asked the railways minister several times to start his speech, but the latter could not do so due to the noisy protest by the opposition members.
Mr Rafiq, however, was heard saying that the PTI members had come to the house for “hooliganism” and “they only want fighting”. He also accused the PTI of conspiring against democracy.
“PTI people are hooligans. That’s all they do in politics… They are only attending the session so that they can collect their salaries,” he alleged.
After having failed to control the situation, the helpless and almost besieged speaker first suspended the proceedings for 15 minutes and later adjourned the house till Thursday evening without taking up any agenda item, except the question hour.
The PTI, which had announced the boycott of parliament in October over the Panamagate issue, decided to return to the National Assembly when the Supreme Court deferred the hearing in the Panama Papers case till the constitution of a new bench in January.
Earlier, speaking on a point of order soon after the question hour, the opposition leader lashed out at the prime minister for allegedly lying to parliament about his foreign assets and companies as revealed in the Panama Papers leaks.
Referring to Mr Sharif’s April 22 speech on the floor of the assembly, Mr Shah said the prime minister had categorically stated that they had purchased the flats in London after selling Gulf Steel set up by his father in Dubai and inaugurated by the then Dubai ruler.
The prime minister, he said, had also claimed that he had complete record and documents to show trail of the money used for purchasing his foreign assets in the 1980s and 90s. But, Mr Shah added, the prime minister’s counsel had stated before the court that his client had actually delivered a “political speech” and it was not meant for the court’s consumption.
He said parliament was superior to any other institution, including the judiciary, and as an opposition leader it was his right to protect parliament’s supremacy.
In an apparent reference to the PTI’s sit-in about two years ago, the opposition leader said the PPP had come for the defence of parliament when it was attacked from outside and it would defend parliament when it was being attacked from inside. He said parliament was supreme because it represented the will of 20 million people and all other institutions were its products.
The speaker interrupted Mr Shah’s speech when he said people had already started saying that the incoming chief justice was PML-N’s man. “It is irritating when we hear the incoming chief justice is the PML-N’s own man,” Mr Shah said.
“Do not make the chief justice controversial,” said the speaker told Mr Shah.
“Perhaps you (PML-N) do not say this, but the people do,” the opposition leader said, adding that how could anyone stop the common people in the streets from saying so.
Mr Shah advised the prime minister to at least admit to his mistake and seek forgiveness and the public might forgive him.