Slogans, counter-slogans as ruckus mars joint session’s proceedings

ISLAMABAD: The Parliament on Tuesday reverberated with slogans of “watch thief and diesel, diesel” and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which ended its long boycott and participated in the joint session, slammed the federal government over its unlawful action against its leaders and workers.

National Assembly (NA) Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf chaired proceedings of the joint session of the parliament.

Opposition Leader in the Senate Shahzad Waseem lambasted both the government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over their “tactics to delay elections to KP and Punjab elections.”

Members from both the treasury and opposition benches chanted slogans against each other’s leaders, ignoring the instructions of the speaker.

The PTI’s senator, while speaking during the joint session on other important issues, including law and order, said that while the nation was busy looking for the crescent of the holy Ramzan, the ECP’s moon came out in the middle of the night “which brought darkness to the nation”.

The opposition leader said that the Election Commission in its midnight decision, going against the decision of the Supreme Court, refused to hold the election on the date given by it and gave a new date.

“The function of the Supreme Court (SC) is to deliver justice and not to interfere, and while the apex court is authorised to interpret the Constitution, it is not allowed to write it,” he added.

During the joint session, journalists protested against the police torture of Express News journalist Saqib Bashir and terrorism cases against a private TV channel’s journalist, staging a walkout from the press gallery.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman targeted the PTI and judiciary, saying that if parliament could call the army chief, the judges should also be called.

At the beginning of the meeting, PTI lawmakers raised slogans against the government while participating in the meeting after a long boycott.

The opposition in the upper house said that the Election Commission gave an excuse in its decision that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was not allowing release of funds for the election, while it was a different matter that the international lender immediately clarified that it was Pakistan’s decision and there was no such restriction from it.

He added that the Election Commission gave another excuse that the security situation was not good, but the speaker was aware of the difficult situation the country was going through.

Waseem said that journalism was considered to be the main pillar of the state. “Today, look at the restrictions on their language and expression,” he pointed out.

“The oppression that they are going through, the abuses that are taking place, the independent voices are being stifled … what the journalists can do if they cannot even walk out in protest as they just have a camera and a pen,” he wondered. “There is no a cannon or sword in their possession.”

He said that elections were held despite the rise in terrorism. He added that there was a war between Iran and Iraq, but elections went ahead in Iran. Similarly, he said, Turkey was shaken by an earthquake, but they still expressed their desire to hold polls.

“Where there are democratic thoughts and attitudes, one does not run away from elections, just as a believer does not run away from death,” he added. “Similarly, a politician does not run away from elections.”

The PTI senator added that the authorities had brought the nation to a crossroads.

On the one hand, the decision of the judiciary had been rejected, while on the other, the procedure given in the Constitution had also been rejected, he pointed out.

“This is an insult to the Constitution and also a violation of the Constitution. This matter is no longer a matter of any party or only Tehreek-e-Insaf, it is a matter of the state and the people that which path they have to choose,” he remarked.

“Should we follow the path of holding elections whenever our heart desires, or should we hold elections according to the Constitution?” he asked.

He said that the Supreme Court rejected the decision of the speaker of the lower house, which resulted in the formation of the incumbent government.

“That decision did not suit us, but we accepted it. We must create a tradition of accepting decisions if we want to strengthen the institutions,” he added.

Waseem said that accepting the decision was a far-fetched thing, but they saw that a systematic campaign had started.

“There were a lot of videos against the judiciary, against the judges, pictures were released and placards were raised in this house. We do not talk about liking or disliking a judge,” he remarked. “We talk about the institution, the institution makes a decision. It is not a personal decision of anyone.”

He wondered that if they did not abide by the Constitution in parliament, how would the state function.

“If the administration and the state will not work in this way, what will be our future? The Constitution establishes a relationship between the people and the state where your life and property, honour and dignity and your fundamental rights will be protected,” he added.

The senator said that no one was safe at the moment, as anyone who spoke was being put in jails and tortured in custody.

“Today, the spirit of this house is also wounded. What hope can the people have from it, which cannot protect its members?” he asked the lawmakers.

“Does it reflect democracy? Which Constitution and law allows it?” he continued to pose questions.

He said that they had seen fascism in Punjab in recent days, and the protesting Pashtuns were called terrorists.

“Are you doing any service to the country in this way? Those Pashtuns are still shedding their blood for the country. Let them be attacked by drones, shed their blood, and watch it flow and still you call them terrorists?” he said.

The PTI lawmaker recalled that the caretaker Punjab chief minister said that they would break hands. “I ask the caretaker chief minister not to break hands but to join hands and seek forgiveness for doing injustice to this nation,” he remarked.

The opposition leader said that the authorities had brought the country’s economy to the point where they threw dust in the eyes of the people.

“How many lives have been lost, how many people have lost their lives in the stampede?” he asked, adding that they announced a subsidy on petrol and then sat still until the IMF intervened.

“This is their style of government. This country is not running as it cannot be run in this way. At this time, there is a need to put personal interests aside and go for national interest,” he remarked.

Waseem said that political parties did not break the relationship with the people, but under the leadership of Imran Khan, the PTI had taken this political struggle to a new level.

“When Imran calls, people reach despite the obstacles,” he pointed out. “You cannot beat passion. People listen to him as his words have an impact. He is not talking about himself, instead he is talking about his people and his country.”

Federal Communications Minister Maulana Asad Mehmood, while participating in the discussion, said that Benazir Bhutto was martyred, parliamentarians were martyred, but so-called human rights organisations came to the field for Imran.

“We will not allow international agents to operate in Pakistan,” he said.

He called on the speaker to summon the judges. “Sometimes, it is said that the decision of the party leader is final and sometimes, it is said that the decision of the parliamentary leader is final,” he added.

Mehmood said Ali Wazir was sent to jail. “We do not interfere in the domain of the Election Commission or the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court’s job is to give justice and not to interfere,” he added.

If the army chief can be summoned to the committee, then the judge of the apex court can also be summoned, he said, adding that everyone knew who created the economic crisis.

The speaker adjourned the joint session of parliament till 11am on April 10.




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