National Assembly’s mood returns to normality after PPP’s arbitration between PTI and ruling party PML-N.
The house, which was giving the look of a fish market on Wednesday, presented an entirely different picture after the government surrendered its right to respond to the speech of Leader of the Opposition Syed Khurshid Shah and agreed to provide an opportunity to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi to speak first.
The agreement between the government and the PTI was brokered by none other than the opposition leader as explained first by Speaker Ayaz Sadiq and later by Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.
In his sermon-like speech, the Makhdoom from Multan targeted the speaker for allegedly playing a biased role and sought an apology from the railways minister for calling the agitating PTI members “goons” during the noisy protest on Wednesday.
And in order to bring sanity to the house, Mr Rafiq readily apologised over his remarks and said he didn’t mean to hurt the sentiments of anyone and had reacted only when the PTI lawmakers used abusive language against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during their protest.
Responding to the opposition’s allegations that the prime minister in his speech had lied to parliament on the issue of his foreign assets, Mr Rafiq said his party and the government stood by each and every word the prime minister had uttered in his April speech in the house.
Mr Qureshi accepted Mr Rafiq’s apology, but demanded that the prime minister himself come to the house to give explanation. He asked the treasury members to give them assurance that the prime minister would come to the house on Monday.
However, no such assurance came from the government side.
During their speeches both Mr Qureshi and Mr Rafiq had to face catcalls from the back-benchers and the speaker had to intervene several times to keep the house in order.
The PTI, which had returned to the house after ending its more than two months’ boycott of parliament, had disrupted the proceedings on Wednesday and besieged the speaker when he gave the floor to the railways minister, instead of Mr Qureshi, after the speech of the opposition leader, and alleged that the speaker had killed the opposition’s privilege motions in his chamber terming them sub judice.
At the outset of Thursday’s proceedings, which started two hours late due to last-minute back channel talks between the PML-N and the PTI, the speaker informed the members that in the light of the understanding between the government and the opposition, he would first give the floor to Mr Qureshi and then to the railways minister.
In his speech, Mr Qureshi kept addressing the chair as “Mr Ayaz Sadiq”, saying that he could not call him speaker due to his “partisan role”. He accused the speaker of killing the privilege motions in his chamber on the dictates of his party leadership and “under duress”.
The PTI leader said that as a seasoned parliamentarian he had a great respect for the chair, but yesterday he saw an “N-League Jiyala” (activist) on the chair.
“If you want to become a Jiyala, then leave the chair and come down here,” he said amid desk-thumping by the opposition members.
He said it was the PTI which had taken the Panamagate issue to the Supreme Court and despite having “reservations” over the prolonged deferment of the case by the judges, the party preferred to keep silence over it and wait for the constitution of a new SC bench. He alleged that the prime minister in his speech had categorically stated that he had purchased the flats in London after selling the steel mills in Dubai and Jeddah and that he had complete record and documents to show the trail of the money used for purchasing his foreign assets.
However, he regretted, Mr Sharif’s counsel later stated before the court that his client had actually delivered a “political speech” and it was not meant for the court’s consumption.
Mr Qureshi also lashed out at the government for constantly accusing the PTI of making attempts to derail the democratic set-up and inviting army.
“Whenever we held protests, you used to say we were doing it on the directives of Raheel Sharif (former army chief) and Rizwan Akhtar (former ISI head). How can you expect that we will burn our own nests?” he asked.
He alleged that those who were the supporters of Gen Musharraf were now sitting in the federal cabinet.
The speaker also responded to Mr Qureshi’s allegations, saying that he had always tried to run the house in an impartial manner.
The railways minister said he had taken his words back and now it was the PTI’s turn to end the use of abusive language against opponents. Without naming Imran Khan, Mr Rafiq said that a person had been dreaming for more than three years of becoming prime minister.