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September 18, 2020

Critical legislation: PML-N knows its nine MPs were absent for genuine or suspicious reasons

Top Story

September 18, 2020

ISLAMABAD: As many as nine senators and MNAs belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) did not turn up for the crucial joint session of parliament on Wednesday for genuine or suspicious reasons, causing embarrassment to the party. Overall, some three dozen opposition members failed to show up.

The PML-N legislators included three MNAs and six senators, a senior party leader disclosed to The News. Among them, Afzal Khokhar, elected from Lahore, could not make it as he is in a serious condition because of a brain tumour. Ehsanul Haq Bajwa, hailing from Bahawalnagar, is abroad and being pursued by different agencies for investigation in connection with various charges. Riaz Hussain Pirzada, elected from Bahawalpur, had high fever and remained in his parliamentary lodge nearby. He had told his party that he would rush to parliament if he were called for voting. Senator Salim Zia had undergone critical surgery and could not turn up for this reason.

The PML-N leader described five other senators -- Mirza Afridi, Shamim Afridi, Dilawar Khan, Raheela Magsi and Kalsoom Parveen -- as “permanent absentees” at the time of critical voting, lowering the numerical strength of the party.

In stark contrast, PML-N MNA Romina Khurshid Alam, who was in the intensive care unit, showed up to vote. She recently embraced Islam and had said in a tweet at the time that her “journey to becoming a Muslim has been a beautiful one, which has taught me so much but yet I continue to learn more with every passing day.”

Former Speaker and senior PML-N leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq claimed during a chat with The News that manipulation was done in the vote-count in parliament. He held his successor, Asad Qaisar, responsible for the shambles. He said the Speaker’s hand was forced by top ruling party leaders who kept signaling to him to hastily get approval of the bills. “Bulldozing legislation is always deleterious for democracy and parliament,” said Sadiq.

He said this was the first time in the parliamentary history of Pakistan that the leader of the opposition was not allowed to speak on such important legislation. “The world over, when the leader of the house or opposition wants to speak, he is instantly given the floor as per parliamentary traditions.”

During his time, he said, he had permitted the then opposition leader, Khurshid Shah, to speak even when the federal budget was being presented. Similarly, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi was allowed to take the floor during the passage of a constitutional amendment.

Ayaz Sadiq said the parliamentary proceedings left no doubt that the Speaker was in a hurry to pass the bills, including even those which were added to the agenda as an afterthought after the opposition parties boycotted the process. At one stage, no one had copies of the proposed legislation, he claimed.

The former speaker alleged that phone calls were also made to certain opposition lawmakers, urging them not to attend the proceedings so that the ruling party enjoyed smooth sailing. He said the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) are also aware of their legislators who were absent. Some MPs of the National Party, Awami National Party and Sardar Akhtar Mengal of the BNP also stayed away for their own reasons. He said Wednesday was a sad day in parliamentary history when the rules became a joke.