–Senate chairman bars info minister after latter refuses to apologise for disrupting House
ISLAMABAD: Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who has a habit of raising a ruckus in parliament, was barred from attending the Senate session after he failed to apologise to the house despite Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani’s directives.
The chairman demanded an apology from Chaudhry after opposition’s insistence and warned the information minister that he would be barred from the Senate if he failed to apologise. At the start of the session, the opposition had threatened to walk out again if Fawad didn’t tender an apology to the Upper House for his harsh language.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Raja Zafarul Haq lamented that the chairman’s instructions were regularly ignored. “The conversation does not end despite staff turning the mic off,” he said in allusion to Wednesday incident wherein Fawad had continued speaking even though his mic was off.
“We do not have any other solution to this than just walk out. Until an apology is tendered, the rest is all meaningless.”
Leader of the House Shibli Faraz suggested that the record of Chaudhry and Senator Mushahidullah Khan’s statements be analysed by a committee, and offered an apology on his fellow PTI leader’s behalf. However, his suggestion was opposed by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Sherry Rehman and National Party President Hasil Bizenjo.
“We have seen similar scenes during dictatorships. The disrespect to parliament is unacceptable,” said Rehman as she compared the recent commotation to Ziaul Haq’s era. “If the information minister thinks he can insult your [position] then we will not tolerate this and we will boycott the session,” said Rehman. She also demanded that Chaudhry apologise to the house or else “we will run the parliament outside the parliament”.
PPP Senator Maula Bux Chandio pointed out that disregarding agenda of the parliament by speaking out of turn is against the decorum. Blaming leader of the House for providing cover to Fawad, the opposition then staged a walkout with National Party’s Mir Hasil Bizenjo stressing that the session will not begin until the PTI leader apologised.
Following a sharp criticism from all parties, Chairman Sanjrani issued a ruling that “all members are bound to respect the chairman and leaders of the house and opposition”. He also adjourned the session for a while to deliberate over Fawad’s conduct. After recommencement, the chairman held the information minister responsible for disrupting the house and ruled that the latter will be barred from the house if he doesn’t tender an apology.
Sanjrani ordered Chaudhry to come to the Senate and tender his apology, making it clear that failure to do so on the minister’s part will get him banned from attending the session. The federal minister’s failure to oblige to the ruling led the chairman to impose the bar on him.
On Wednesday, the Senate had witnessed rumpus once again in the House on Wednesday after Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry continued his verbal assaults on the opposition, this time on Pushtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, and demanded the formation of a parliamentary committee to investigate utilisation of massive funds by the previous governments. Speaking in the house, Fawad accused Achakzai of robbing the country and making ‘anti-state’ statements, resulting in a strong response from PkMAP Senator Usman Kakar. Fawad also said that Achakzai got his brother appointed as the governor of Balochistan. Kakar, in a reference to Fawad’s past, accused him of ‘licking the boots’ of former military dictator General (r) Pervez Musharraf.
Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani intervened and more than once asked Fawad to not use “un-parliamentary” language, saying that running the House is government’s responsibility and it needs to exercise greater tolerance towards opposition. Fawad, however, continued with his accusations and asked why opposition members are reminded of decorum of the House only when corruption cases are discussed.
He also demanded that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator Mushahidullah Khan apologise for impolite comments against Fawad and his family made in the House on Monday. Sanjrani eventually turned off the mic of Fawad as opposition members started a walkout.