ISLAMABAD – JAVAID-UR-RAHMAN AND IMRAN MUKHTAR - Both the houses of the parliament Friday witnessed clumsy scenes as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz continued its protest, refusing to take part in debate until Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani resigns from his office.

On the other hand, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party and its coalition partners asked the PML-N to review its boycott decision, warning that the onus would be on the main opposition party if democracy was destabilised as the situation could reach at ‘point of no return'.

The 41st session of the national assembly, which remained in session for almost two weeks, prorogued on Friday amidst the 'go-Gilani-go' slogans of PML-N in the house. The protestors with black bands around their arms and chanting full-throat anti-government slogans created similar messy situation as was seen on previous three days. The other opposition members only played the role of silent spectators.

Prime Minister Gilani did not turn up in the house. Gilani attended this session only for one day and openly challenged the opposition to bring no confidence motion against him. Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali attended the session but like on the previous days he opted to sit on backbenches.

Prior to the prorogation, Law Minister Farooq H Naek commenting on the protest of the opposition party warned that the PML-N would be responsible if continued rumpus led to the derailment of the democracy. Inviting further hooting by the PML-N legislators, the PPP member said that this attitude of the party was totally against the parliamentary norms and rules and procedures.

Naek remarked that the Supreme Court has so for not given a detailed judgment and NA speaker and the election commission have also not issued any directions. "Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is still member of the national assembly and also the prime minister," he said, asking them to follow the rules and respect the sanctity of the parliament.

Speaker Fehmida Mirza also remarked that PML-N members should respect the decorum of the house and tradition of dictator's era should not be repeated. "There is a right to protest but parliamentary norms should be respected." But her advice too fell on deaf ears.

The PML-N legislators, on its fourth consecutive day of protest terming Gilani as disqualified prime minister, mostly stayed around the rostrum and empty seat of prime minister and kept raising anti-government slogans during the whole proceeding. They were also holding placards inscribed with slogans like 'Go Gilani Go', 'Convicted PM not Acceptable ', and 'Corrupt Government not Acceptable'.

The PML-N also continued their boycott of the Senate proceedings and walked out from the upper house on the last working day of the week. PML-N lawmakers came in the house for few minutes after the Question Hour session when the house started debate on president's March 17 address to the joint sitting of the parliament. They announced that their party will boycott presidential address debate until Gilnai resigns from his post.

Senator Mushahid Ullah Khan of PML-N remarked that debate on presidential address was uncalled for as its purpose was to give directions to the government (executive) that did not exist after prime minister's conviction in contempt of court case. Another PML-N lawmaker Zafar Ali Shah said his party could not participate in this debate as the president had acted on the advice of unconstitutional prime minister.

Senior PPP leader Mian Raza Rabbani rebutted this argument by saying when PM had given the advice to the president for an address to the joint sitting, he was not convicted then. He requested the PML-N that as their argument was not fair so they should review their decision to boycott the session.

Leader of House in Senate Jehangir Badar said that debate on presidential address was a constitutional requirement and it seemed that PML-N was not ready to fulfill this requirement and were not interested in carrying forward the democratic process. "They should come in the house to support democracy," he added.

Senator Mushahid Hussain of PML-Q said that opposition should come in the house as democracy did not belong to any one party but to the people of Pakistan. "Democracy runs with the government and opposition," he added. He said that in politics no doors are closed and PML-N should review and reverse its decision. "Let us not create the situation where mistakes of past could be repeated," he said.

He said if the deadlocks, stalemates would persist, the forces other than democratic would benefit from it. He opined that that the point of no return would neither benefit the government nor the opposition. He implicitly criticised PML-N by saying that 'one agenda of long march' would ultimately lead to destabilisation and damage the democracy. "They started long march to restore judges and then a phone call came from 'khakis' (army) and they ended their long march," he remarked.

Senator Afrasayab Khattak said some political parties wanted to revive the politics of 90's despite the fact that Charter of Democracy was signed in the past to avert such situation. "If we repeated the mistakes of 90's, that would be dangerous for the integrity of the country," he added. Criticising PML-N, he added that some people were saying now they do not accept others and this was the thinking that caused the separation of East Pakistan in 1971.

Moulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of JUI-F said that protest of PPP workers after the apex court verdict as well agitation of opposition on the issue, both, were wrong as the court verdicts should not be dragged into the streets. He said that all state institutions should work within their limits. He said that bad law and order situation, killings and kidnappings in Balochistan the worst economic conditions and loadshedding were the worst problems being faced by the country.

Guilty verdict keeps Parliament choked