A session of the National Assembly — lower house of Pakistan’s bicameral legislature — was yesterday marred by general disorder as the opposition staged a loud protest, complaining that Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri, who was chairing the session, had been denying them the mic.
Amid the ruckus, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) parliamentarian Agha Rafiullah Awan initiated a cross-talk when the treasury benches began discussing the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement’s rallies. According to local reports, upon being told to stop interrupting the proceedings, he proceeded to clash directly with the deputy speaker.
After being warned that he was “getting personal”, Rafiullah was ordered to leave the assembly hall.
“He impedes the National Assembly proceedings and will not be allowed in,” Suri said. Former premier Raja Pervez Ashraf promptly apologised on Awan’s behalf and asked for the ruling to be withdrawn, but the deputy speaker refused to accept the apology and insisted on Rafiullah leaving the hall for at least one minute.
Ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Ali Muhammad interjected at this point to read out from the rules of the House and point out that Rafiullah himself should be apologising.
“He should respect the chair and follow the deputy speaker’s command,” he said, recommending that Awan leave the hall for a minute and return so that the chair’s ruling is implemented.
After being warned that disobeying the chair could lead to his suspension from the House, Rafiullah left the hall along with other opposition leaders and returned after a few minutes.
While the opposition was away, PTI MNA Murad Saeed took advantage of the situation to move a resolution condemning the opposition PDM’s Quetta rally.
Condemning political sloganeering at the mausoleum of the country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah and criticism of Urdu as national language, Saeed said: “You are speaking to the tunes of [Indian premier] Modi and [Indian National Security Advisor] Ajit Doval.”
“You must have heard Doval’s statement on how they intended to destabilise Pakistan. “This is an international conspiracy. I hope people don’t become a pawn in their ignorance.”
“You can do whatever you want but you will not be given an NRO — or National Reconciliation Order, a euphemism for reconciling on any abuse of power,” said Saeed as he ripped off the agenda papers. The legislator was reprimanded by the deputy speaker for the act.
Taking the floor upon return, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf regretted that the treasury benches had nothing new to say.
“We are tired of hearing the same things again and again,” Ashraf said, and added, the government terming the PDM rallies illegal was ironic: “How do you justify your own existence?” he asked, referring to the 2014 PTI sit-in. “Don’t teach us what the law is.”
The former premier said his party had condemned the controversial statements made at the Quetta rally.
“The country does not belong to only you or me, it belongs to the masses,” he said, warning PTI members against politicisng the issue.
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