Opposition stages walkout over PM’s Senate absence

A view of the Parliament House, which houses the Senate and the National Assembly. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The opposition’s protest over the continued absence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and ministers from Senate on Wednesday forced the chair to adjourn the sitting without taking up any item on the agenda.

Before staging a walkout and pointing out the lack of quorum, opposition members lashed out at the ruling party for what they called showing total disrespect to parliament and not giving it importance in decision making on key national issues, including terrorism.

“The parliament has never suffered such a disgrace. The governments are not run in this fashion,” Senate’s acting chairman Sabir Ali Baloch said before adjourning the session till Friday morning after the opposition pointed out the lack of quorum which the government failed to complete.

At the outset of the sitting which started more than an hour late at a time when the prime minister was presiding over a multi-party conference (MPC) at the PM House, PPP’s Parliamentary Leader Raza Rabbani said it seemed that the ruling party had boycotted the upper house of parliament.

Ruling party criticised for showing disrespect to parliament

Mr Rabbani, who has been waiting for his turn to take part in the debate on a Taliban attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar for the past two days, was of the view that the recommendations being finalised at the MPC to counter terrorism should have been presented in a joint session of parliament which he claimed was an appropriate forum for it.

Zahid Khan of the Awami National Party (ANP) said the current session had been convened by the government and now it was taking no interest in its proceedings.

“They (the rulers) don’t want democracy. They have disgraced the parliament,” he said.

The ANP member suggested that the session should be prorogued if the government was not interested in running it.

“At least, save the public money and end the session,” he said.

“It seems that the prime minister and the PML-N do not consider Senate a part of parliament,” another ANP Senator Haji Mohammad Adeel said.

He regretted that despite an amendment to the rules under which the prime minister was bound to attend the Senate sitting once a week, Mr Sharif was not coming to the upper house. Similarly, he said, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had also not been attending the sessions since long.

Referring to the ANP’s support to the PML-N government in the recent political crisis caused by the PTI’s sit-in, Haji Adeel said they had saved the government for the sake of democracy, but “we have not been contracted to do so always”.

All opposition members staged a walkout from the house.

At that time, only Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Aftab Ahmed Sheikh and PML-N Senator Mohammad Hamza were present in the house.

When the minister took the floor to give a government response, Mr Zahid Khan returned to the house and pointed out lack of quorum. Under the rules, the presence of one-fourth of the total members is necessary to run the proceedings.

The acting chairman ordered a headcount and suspended the proceedings for half an hour. Later, when the house met again, Mr Baloch found only seven members sitting in the 104-member house.

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