–PM accuses Opp parties of boycotting sessions as ‘pressure tactic’ to get NRO
–Shehbaz says won’t dignify PM’s remark with response
–Bilawal questions PM Imran’s own attendance record in NA sessions
— Zardari says Imran Khan doesn’t know definition of NRO
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday criticised the opposition parties for disrupting the National Assembly proceedings by staging regular walkouts, drawing bitter reaction from opposition leaders who questioned the former’s own record of attending the House sessions.
Lashing out at the opposition for walking out on the first day of the NA’s new session, PM Imran said that the repeated walkouts indicated that this was “the only function they (opposition) intend to perform”.
He claimed that walkouts are used as “pressure tactics” to “seek an NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance] and evade accountability for corruption in NAB [National Accountability Bureau] cases not initiated by PTI [Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf]”.
NRO was a controversial ordinance issued by former military dictator General (r) Pervez Musharraf that granted amnesty to politicians, political workers and bureaucrats accused of corruption and financial irregularities between January 1, 1986, and October 12, 1999.
In another tweet, the prime minister wondered if democracy for the opposition meant “immunity from corruption”.
“It seems for them being elected is a license to plunder the country,” he added.
Does democracy mean immunity from corruption of democratically elected political leaders? It seems for them being elected is a license to plunder the country. https://t.co/POpMhLg7L1
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) January 15, 2019
On Monday, the opposition members staged a walkout after NA Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif criticised the PTI government for awarding the contract for the Rs309 billion Mohmand Dam project to a Descon-led consortium on a single bid basis. The deal has become controversial because Descon Engineering Limited is owned by Abdul Razzaq Daud, the PM’s adviser on commerce and industry.
Before Shehbaz’s speech, PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari had lashed out at NAB on the floor of the assembly, demanding that the chairman of the country’s top anti-corruption watchdog be summoned before parliament for his recent actions against parliamentarians.
As Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda stood up to respond to the criticism, the opposition refused to listen to him and staged a walkout.
So far, the current assembly has had 34 sittings, out of which the premier has attended six, including the one held for his election as premier. The opposition has staged several walkouts from the NA since the new government came into power, leaving Speaker Asad Qaiser struggling with the formation of house committees. In the meantime, the opposition is flexing its muscles to give the ruling coalition a tough time on a number of issues, including the ongoing energy crisis, ‘one-sided’ accountability, the mini-budget and the recent increase in the prices of medicines.
The delay in the formation of over three dozen committees has badly affected the legislative work of parliament, and the Lower House is functioning with only two committees, including the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), that was formed last month after a deadlock between the government and opposition over naming Shehbaz Sharif as the committee’s chairman was broken.
‘IMRAN DOESN’T EVEN COME TO PARLIAMENT’:
Taking exception to the PM’s remarks, Shehbaz Sharif, who is in NAB custody in the Ashiana-e-Iqbal housing scam, told reporters outside the Parliament House that the premier’s comment was “baseless” and claimed that he won’t dignify it with a response.
He revealed that the press will soon be taken into confidence upon matters discussed during meetings with other opposition leaders.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that Imran Khan “knows nothing about parliamentary affairs as he doesn’t even attend the NA sessions”.
“He had promised to be the first prime minister to attend the House regularly and answer opposition’s questions but that has proven to be untrue. Like, the rest of his promises,” Bilawal said.
Referring to a proposal to grant an extension to military courts, the PPP chairman said that “it is hardly possible for his party to support the bill”. He added that the government had not yet approached his party for consultation over the matter.
Moreover, Zardari jibed that Imran Khan “does not even know the definition of NRO”.
Responding to a reporter who asked if the government was in a position to give an NRO, the former president mocked that the government is “not in a position to give anything”.
‘GOVT RESPONSIBLE FOR WALKOUTS’:
PPP leader Syed Khursheed Shah said that the premier should know that it is the government’s attitude that is forcing the opposition to boycott sessions.
He advised the prime minister to weigh his words before saying anything as he held an important position.
Shah reminded the prime minister of his announcement to come to parliament every week to answer questions. “At least you shouldn’t say that we are asking for NRO,” he said and clarified that they hadn’t asked the government for any NRO-style deal.
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, in a video message, claimed that “Imran Khan’s tweets show that he is worried because of the incapability of his federal cabinet”.
“The parliament whose cost Imran Khan is fretting about is the same that he remained absent from for five years,” she said and added: “Mr Imran, parliament and government are not run over Twitter.”
She also referred to the premier’s low attendance in the assembly, saying that “the Pakistani public was about to give out an advertisement to look for their prime minister.”
Aurangzeb accused Prime Minister Imran of “seeking an NRO for his ineptness by hurling allegations” and declared that the “opposition will not remain silent”.
“You will not be granted an NRO over Aleema [Khanum’s overseas properties’ case] and foreign funding,” the former information minister said, adding that the opposition will continue to question the poor performance of the government.