ISLAMABAD- The joint sitting of the Parliament on its first day (Tuesday) witnessed a rare show of unity to defend the parliamentary system in the country, giving a message that the nation was standing by its elected members.
The session, with a majority of the lawmakers from both the Houses in attendance, saw support for the PML-N government, but with an advice to improve its performance and mend its mindset to avoid such a political turmoil in future.
Javed Hashmi, who still claimed he was the PTI president, also marked his presence in the House to announce his resignation as an MNA and testify that he believed in the continuation of parliamentary system. Hashmi announced he was giving resignation on his own free will.
Initiating the debate on the prevailing political situation in the country, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told the parliament that the struggle of both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri was not part of any protest but a rebellion against the state and its institutions.
Nisar further said these protesting leaders were not revolutionaries, but intruders and terrorists. “It will be a crime if no action is taken under such circumstances,” he said, accusing both the parties of dragging the army and judiciary into politics. He said now the time had come to take action as inaction would be a crime.
The terrorists, armed with axes, batons, hammers and cutters, broke CCTV cameras and snatched equipment from PTV staff, he said mentioning the protesters’ entry into the PTV building the other day.
Taking the floor, Opposition Leader in Senate Ch Aitzaz Ahsan, in his long speech, supported the beleaguered government, but advised it to watch its performance and attitude. “We are with you. Nothing will happen to your government. But after successfully facing this political turmoil, you need to change your attitude and ponder upon your follies,” he said.
He feared pomposity of the ruling party might increase after successfully passing through this phase.
He asked the rulers to give written orders to police to take action against these protesters. “You were removing eight tiny hurdles, terming it unconstitutional, and now you yourselves have placed containers,” he said.
About the poll-rigging allegations, he said the accusations of the protesting party (PTI) are not wrong as a massive rigging happened in these elections. “I have seen one constituency where a big rigging was committed as there were no electoral lists or counterfoils in the bags,” he said.
“Mr PM, you don’t want to quit, don’t. For the sake of democracy, we will make sure you continue to hold the office. But you need to see the same people are around you who were there during your previous tenures. Your government has been toppled twice before, you needed to be careful. Why your ministers can’t adopt a polite attitude,” he asked the PM.
He hoped the prime minister would not step down and avoid repeating the past practice. “The PM declared on April 17, 1993, I will not resign, but on April 18 he resigned,” the PPP leader recalled. He also criticised the government for not registering the FIR in the Model Town incident.
He said the PTI chief failed to take resignation from KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak. He said it was a historic occasion that the parties had offered their unconditional support to the government in the prevailing political crisis.
Aitzaz Ahsan said those who claimed they would lead the protest from the front were actually using women and children as a shield. He also criticised the prime minister for not regularly attending the parliament sessions.
Ch Nisar, immediately after the speech of Aitzaz Ahsan, rushed to clarify that former President Ghulam Ishaq Khan had dissolved the assemblies on April 18, 1993.
Taking the floor, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said all the parliamentarians had smelt the conspiracy against the parliament.
“It is not the matter of Nawaz Sharif, but it is the matter of an elected PM of the country. Those raising voice about rigging are not ready to leave the KP government,” he added.
About the army’s indication against use of force while handling the protesters, the Maulana said the lawmakers were facing hardships even to reach the Parliament House due to these protesters. “We equally respect police and army,” said the JUI-F chief. “Are they trying to give the message that the police belongs to one state and the army to another? Those who are trying to give this impression are enemies of the state,” he said.
The Maulana also complained that the speaker had not accepted the resignations of the PTI lawmakers. He argued if a treason case could be registered against Sufi Muhammad why it couldn’t be initiated against the PAT and PTI leadership for attacking state institutions. About the FIR of the Model Town incident, he questioned how a case could be registered only on the wishes of a complainant.
Fazlur Rehman received much appreciation as some senior lawmakers, including Mehmood Achakzai, went to his seat to greet him.
Responding to the JUI-F chief’s query, NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq said he still had to determine the nature of the resignations submitted by the PTI lawmakers before their acceptance.
Javed Hashmi who entered the house in the mid of the proceedings received much desk thumping. The lawmakers kept greeting him till the end of the session. Hashmi said he had opposed Imran Khan for moving towards the PM House with the protesters.
The PTI lawmaker who still claimed he was the PTI president announced to resign as an MNA after sharing his emotions with the house. “I am happily tendering my resignation and going back to my people,” he added.
“There is no need to hold Imran Khan responsible for the crisis as it is necessary to think why such situation erupted. You need to make the parliament meaningful,” he said, questioning why the PM had not visited the Senate even once in the last 14 months.
“There is a need to think why the parliamentary system is getting weak with the passage of time. We need to respect the parliament. Why was action not taken on the Model Town incident?” he asked.
About his rift with Imran Khan, he said the PTI chairman had promised that he would not go against the constitution, parliament and democracy. He said he had also made it clear to Imran Khan that forming a technocrat government did not come under the purview of the Supreme Court. He had also asked Khan not to put pressure on the members for resignations, Hashmi affirmed. However, he said he happily resigned from the house, adding that he had come to the Parliament to support the continuation of parliamentary system.
Taking the floor, PkMAP Chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai termed it an unprecedented moment, saying all the political forces were united on one cause to defend the constitution and parliament of the country. “These gypsies must leave the parliament premises,” he said, questioning what kind of message they are giving. Achakzai asked both Imran and Qadri to demonstrate sagacity and allow their supporters to go home.
The third largest party (MQM) leader, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, on his turn, assured the government of his support. He also requested the prime minister to end ancestral politics in his party as it would help strengthen democracy.
He also criticised the government for adopting double standards in its strategy to handle the Karachi operation and these protesters.