ISLAMABAD - The front rows of the National Assembly hall gave a deserted look on Friday as all the top leaders chose to stay away for one reason or the other.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan rarely grace the proceedings and lawmakers have seemingly accepted their absence.

For yesterday’s proceedings not even PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman or Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Farooq Sattar could spare time. Opposition leader Khurshid Shah is nursing his injuries which he sustained while falling during a horse ride.

Most among the fleet of the ministers were absent and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan only showed up at the closing time. The lawmakers were seen chit-chatting across the divide oblivious of whatever was happening on the mics.

The chair had to intervene every now and then to stop the legislators from gossiping and concentrating on the proceedings.

When the house passed ‘The Alternate Dispute Resolution Bill, 2017,’ at the dying moments, Law Minister Zahid Hamid could find only 25-30 lawmakers around him – including the opposition members.

Bored journalists could be seen yawning in the press gallery awaiting the chair’s words on the conclusion of the proceedings for the day. “Whenever Murtaza Javed Abbasi (the Deputy Speaker) is in the chair, it takes long to end the day. He even calls the members who are sleeping at home to come and speak on the points of order,” commented a journalist. Speaker Ayaz Sadiq had left earlier.

Prime Minister Sharif, who himself is a regular absentee, has been asking Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawmakers to ensure their presence to avert embarrassment.

For the last many months, the government has been facing embarrassments as habitual absentees have caused quorum issues on a number of occasions.

PM Sharif even conveyed it to the lawmakers that those skipping the proceedings regularly may not be awarded party tickets in the general elections, due next year. Even this warning could not do the trick.

Pakistan People’s Party lawmaker Nafeesa Shah said the Prime Minister himself was avoiding the parliament since taking the oath in 2013. “He needs to lead by example. If he doesn’t come, the followers will definitely take the proceedings lightly,” she said.

The PPP leader said her party members and opposition leader Khurshid Shah have tried to attend the parliamentary proceedings but the treasury benches had hardly shown any interest.

Prime Minister Sharif’s attendance record in parliament has been under scanner. He mainly appeared in the assembly when the going was tough, otherwise leaving it to his ministers to manage.

Yesterday Sharif was busy inaugurating the first phase of 75-kilometre long section of six-lane Karachi-Hyderabad Motorway, M-9. The ruling PML-N had organised a convention at Al-Hamra Cultural Complex, Lahore which was attended by party leaders and workers.

PTI Chief Imran Khan was in Peshawar and hoping to win the 2018 polls.

 

Back in the assembly, the around two dozen lawmakers were baited by Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi to speak as long as they can to keep the house running. It was MQM’s Sheikh Salahuddin who forced the chair to end the day saying: “Sir, won’t you offer Jumma (Friday) prayers.” Abbasi blushed and adjourned the proceedings.

 

 

leaders missing , empty front rows