Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – Disturbance, uproar and sloganeering against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif marked Wednesday’s session of the Lower House, as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers returned to parliament after a boycott of the lower house earlier in October to see their privilege motions on Panamagate ripped to pieces.

Chaos ruled the National Assembly (NA), as Speaker Ayaz Sadiq rejected the opposition’s privilege motions, angering opposition members belonging to the PTI, who responding by tearing apart copies of the session’s agenda. Both the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and opposition lawmakers shouted slogans, accusing each other’s leaders of corruption.

The PML-N majority House was, however, unable to respond to the ruckus created by the PTI members. Most of the ruling MPs looked stunned, as they could not do anything but let the ‘tsunami’ take its course.

The PTI and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) submitted privilege motions in the NA, claiming that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had misguided lawmakers in a speech delivered earlier this year regarding his assets. The NA speaker clarified his decision to reject the motions, saying the matter was sub judice.

Khursheed Shah, leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, addressed the ruling PML-N and said, “It is irritating when we hear the incoming chief justice is the PML-N’s own man. Perhaps you [PML-N] do not say this, but the people do,” he claimed.

“We safeguarded this House and when the prime minister comes to the same House, he reads out a written statement,” the opposition leader said, adding that he had been through prisons and other hardships for safeguarding the Parliament.

The PTI legislators protested as Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique rose to speak on a point of order after opposition leader Khurshid Shah’s speech. The opposition leader had raised the issue of Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer’s statement in the Supreme Court, in which he termed the PM’s speech in NA a political statement and not legal. The speaker allowed Saad Rafique to speak at a time when the PTI lawmakers too had requested audience, which added fuel to fire.

Pandemonium broke out in the PTI benches when the floor was opened for Saad Rafique. The NA speaker said that the point of order was not only for the opposition but also for the ruling party’s lawmakers, and he would allow opposition legislators to speak once Saad Rafique had finish his speech.

The session was first adjourned for 15 minutes but the speaker had to adjourn it until today (Thursday), as the situation did not return to normalcy for long.

Amid chants of ‘thief, thief’, Saad Rafique lashed out at the members of the opposition clustered before the speaker’s bench who were throwing papers in the air, and accused the PTI lawmakers of ‘only wanting to fight’.

“The PTI is scheming against democracy,” he said. “PTI workers are hooligans… They are only attending the session so they can collect their salaries,” Saad claimed.