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February 5, 2021

26th Amendment bill: MNAs prefer physical fights to verbal debate

Top Story

February 5, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Thursday presented a chaotic scene due to brawls as the opposition members registered a strong protest during speeches of the cabinet members on the 26th Constitutional Amendment Bill.

Over a dozen security staff members surrounded dais of the speaker to guard Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who was chairing the proceedings. The opposition members, carrying placards, had gathered in front of the chair to lodge protest.

The placards were inscribed with slogans against raise in electricity tariff, price-hike and accusing the government of corruption and a compromise on the Kashmir cause. The opposition members shouted ‘Go Imran Go’ and ‘Atta Mehnga Roti Mehngi’ and continued whistling till end of the proceedings.

The PPP parliamentarians removed the mic of the deputy speaker for a while and, in response, two members from Karachi moved towards the dais to push the opposition members. Meanwhile, a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA fell down after he was pushed by Agha Rafiullah from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said the placards, which the opposition were displaying, were prepared by the PPP parliamentarian Shazia Marri. “I want to congratulate her for giving placards inscribed with slogans ‘Chor Chor’ in the hands of thieves,” he said.

Fawad Chaudhry said the opposition was using all tactics to protect their corruption, but they would not be given an NRO (deal). “The ringleader gang of thieves has gone to London, leaving behind his gangsters,” he said.

Referring to the protest of opposition members, he said one of them was displaying a shoe and it seems that he needed to learn ethics. Fawad Chaudhry said the opposition members including Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Rana Tanveer came to the speaker’s chamber for talks on Wednesday and agreed that two speeches would be delivered from both sides. “But as they returned, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq was snubbed by Nawaz Sharif and his daughter on cell-phone,” he said, adding that Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari had secured Master’s degree in purchase votes.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the government was aware of the fact it did not enjoy the two-third majority in the House to get the constitutional amendment passed, but it wanted to expose the opposition which is used to change its stance.

Qureshi said the nation had seen the elements who wanted to derail democracy by giving protecting the corrupt elements while opposing the constitutional amendment. “Through this amendment, we want to ensure transparency in Senate elections and give vote of right to overseas Pakistanis,” he said.

He said the opposition did not want an amendment to the Constitution because they believe in politics of corruption and change others’ loyalties. “The opposition members wanted to continue with corrupt practices and use of money in Senate elections,” he said.

The minister warned the opposition benches that no opposition member would be allowed to speak in the House after seeing their behaviour on Thursday. He said the PPP and PML-N had jointly promised in the Charter of Democracy to hold Senate elections through show of hand to ensure transparency in the polling process and end sale and purchase of votes, but surprisingly now these parties are faltering from their commitment.

The foreign minister asked as to what stopped the opposition from tendering resignations. He said he won’t reveal this secret at this moment.

Qureshi said that to ensure transparency in the Upper House polls, the PTI had filed a reference in the Supreme Court, requesting the apex court for interpretation of law that whether or not Senate elections could be held through open ballot. He said as a second option, we moved a constitutional amendment in the National Assembly which needed two-third majority for its approval.

Qureshi said that despite knowing the fact that the PTI lacked the required majority for the purpose, the government brought 26th Constitutional Amendment to the Parliament to expose the opposition and people could know that who did not want to eliminate horse-trading in Senate elections and continue to promote corrupt practices in the country. The foreign minister made it clear that the PTI would stand committed with its principled stand of ensuring transparency in Senate elections, irrespective of approval or rejection of the amendment in the House.

Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said the government wanted amendment to the Constitution to end Changa Manga-like politics in Senate elections. “The opposition itself faced humiliation in elections of the Senate chairman despite having majority in the Upper House,” he said.

Asad Umar also said that it was Nawaz Sharif who promoted politics of purchasing votes starting from Changa Manga activity. “Nawaz Sharif even offered BMW car to the then army chief General Asif Nawaz but failed in his attempt,” he said, adding that Nawaz Sharif also promoted Indian narrative through attempts like DawnLeaks.

Asad Umar said that Nawaz Sharif who was not used to win elections without umpire, resorted to unleash attacks on the Chief of the Army Staff and Director General ISI. The members from the treasury benches raised slogans of ‘Raja Rental’ as former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf started his speech.

“Yes, I am Raja Rental. I brought rental power plants to the country. I was acquitted by the court of all the charges against me,” he said.

Ridiculing treasury benches’ move seeking amendment to the Constitution, the PPP parliamentarian said, “Look sugar thieves are protesting against corruption and seeking transparent Senate elections.”

“The government is staging the drama only to show to people that the opposition does not believe in transparent elections,” he added. Pervaiz Ashraf pointed out that it was Imran Khan who, after assuming power, had said a prime minister imposing taxes and causing price-hike and increasing tariffs of electricity should be considered as a thief.

“Imran Khan wants to attend proceedings of House but his parliamentarians’ behaviour stops him from coming here,” he said. He objected that the ministers, after ending their speeches themselves, went on giving floor to their colleagues without seeking permission from the chair. “It gives an impression that a hockey match is going on and the ministers are passing on ball to each other,” he said.

He also pointed out that the chair was running proceedings of the House as if the PTI parliamentary party meeting was in progress. He said the government did not have the require numbers for amendment and it is exposed by bringing the bill. He said the treasury members are the main hurdle in passage of the bill as they have already received ‘advance payment’.