Fawad Chaudhry in the line of fire in Senate after outburst

ISLAMABAD: The opposition moved on Friday a privileged motion in the Senate against “derogatory” remarks made by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry against opposition leaders.

The motion was moved by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Mushahidullah Khan who said the information minister had also levelled allegations against him for providing lucrative posts to his brothers in the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

On this occasion, Leader of the House in the Senate Shibli Faraz and Mr Khan exchanged some harsh words.

Opposition demands minister be banned from attending sessions of both houses of parliament for at least one month

The opposition members demanded that the information minister be banned from attending the parliament proceedings for at least one month.

The information minister, in his speech in the National Assembly on Thursday, called all opposition members “thieves” and “dacoits”.

Senator Mushahidullah Khan said Fawad Chaudhry had called all opposition leaders “thieves” but he had forgotten that his uncle and former Punjab governor Chaudhry Altaf was also a leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) now sitting on the opposition benches. “Mr Altaf was an educated man and served as governor, but the information minister has called his own uncle thief and dacoit,” he said.

“Chaudhry Altaf was a respectable man but some eggs turn out to be rotten. This minister has become a member of all political parties. Is Fawad Chaudhry a minister of the state of Madina or of Rangila Shah?”

The PML-N senator said he would teach the information minister a lesson and Prime Minister Imran Khan would have to remove him (Fawad Chaudhry) from the cabinet. He said the information minister had levelled baseless allegations against him and now Mr Chaudhry had to prove them. “If the information minister fails to prove his allegations, he would have to tender an apology before the house,” he maintained.

Shibli Faraz said he and the whole house stood by Senator Mushahidullah for being hurt emotionally.

Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani informed the house that he had held a meeting with the National Assembly speaker who said he had expunged the objectionable words from the speech of the information minister. He said Mr Chaudhry had already tendered apology.

Mushahidullah Khan said he and his three brothers had served in PIA well before he joined the PML-N. “The information minister called me a loader of PIA, but he doesn’t know that I became a graduate even before the birth of the minister,” he said.

Senator Javed Abbasi said the language used by the information minister was not used even in private gatherings and wondered if the attitude of ministers matched their claims about running the country like the state of Madina.

Senator Chaudhry Tanveer pointed out the quorum and the opposition members staged a walkout. Later, the Senate session was adjourned till Monday.

Lack of quorum

Lack of interest of federal cabinet members and members of the treasury benches in legislative business of parliament was evident on Friday when the proceedings of both the National Assembly and Senate were suspended due to lack of quorum and non-availability of the ministers concerned.

Although the opposition has been pointing out poor attendance of treasury members in the National Assembly since the start of current sessions of the two houses, it was for the first time that the businesses of both houses were suspended the same day due to lack of quorum.

Prime Minister Imran Khan took serious notice of the issue and summoned NA Speaker Qaiser and asked for the reasons for poor attendance of members of the treasury benches.

The quorum problem had also remained a headache for the last PML-N government throughout its five-year term and the then opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf used to criticise it for not giving due importance to the parliament.

In the National Assembly, the quorum was pointed out twice. The first was pointed out by PML-N’s Sheikh Fayyaz Uddin after which the opposition members staged a walkout and the house remained suspended for 20 minutes. The second time quorum was pointed out by another PML-N’s MNA, Tehseen Watto, and the session remained suspended for few minutes to count members. However, the session resumed as the quorum was found complete on this occasion.

Earlier, former deputy speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi accused incumbent deputy speaker Qasim Suri of running the house “unconstitutionally” and said that despite pointing out of quorum by an opposition member on Thursday, the latter continued proceedings of the lower house. Mr Abbasi said the deputy speaker had shown partiality and did not allow the opposition member, who had pointed out the quorum, to speak.

Later, during a debate on the budget, opposition members — Rana Tanvir Hussain, Naz Baloch, Ajmal Khan and Abdul Akbar Chitrali — also complained about the absence of ministers from the house.

Former opposition leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah has been complaining about the poor attendance of the treasury benchers for one week. “We have witnessed the same situation during last PML-N government and now N-Leaguers are sitting in the opposition. If the PTI leaders do not mend their ways they would have a similar fate,” he added.

In the Senate, even Leader of the House Shibli Faraz said the absence of ministers was a source of humiliation for him.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2018

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