ISLAMABAD - The Parliament’s joint session on the Yemen crisis was abuzz with slogans of ‘Go Imran Go’ as the PTI chairman along with other members of his party turned up on Monday after a seven-month boycott.

The PML-N members raised the slogan against the PTI members, “Lot Ke Budhoo Ghar Ko Aey”. On the arrival of Nawaz Sharif, they chanted, “Sher Aya, Sher Aya.”

Soon after the session began with Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq in the chair, the lawmakers from PML-N started chanting slogans against PTI and its leader Imran Khan.

The slogans also disrupted the opening speech by Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Shah as the speaker requested the lawmakers to maintain order in the house.

MQM and JUI-F members also raised slogans of ‘Shame, Shame’. Though the speaker did not give floor to them, Danial Aziz and Umer Ayub of PML-N continued to demand a ruling from the speaker about resignations of the PTI members. They also asked the PTI members to apologise to the Parliament.

The house presented a view of fish market as members from all sides continued to criticise PTI. As the PML-N members did not stop from raising slogans despite requests by the ministers, the speaker threatened to adjourn the house.

MQM members walked out of the session in protest against PTI’s presence in the Parliament. Farooq Sattar asserted that PTI MNAs had no right to be there as they had tendered resignations.

Federal ministers, Qadir Baloch, Barjees Tahir and Riaz Peerzada, were sent by the speaker to pacify the disgruntled lawmakers.

Minister Mushahidullah Khan welcomed PTI to the Parliament and said Imran considered U turn as his success.

There was no thumping of desks as the PTI members came to the house. They entered the house and took their seats silently.

PML-N’s Tahir Aurangzeb, Senator Chaudhry Tanvir, PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan and Khurshid Shah, JI’s Aisha Syed and AML’s Sheikh Rasheed went to Imran and welcomed him back to the Parliament.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, speaking at the start of the special parliamentary debate, said the people who continued calling this government, the prime minister, these assemblies as fake and rigged for eight months are sitting here now. He requested Speaker Ayaz Sadiq to ask PTI members one-by-one whether they wanted to verify their resignations or not. The house erupted with racket on this statement. The speaker continued to calm down the MNAs, but in vain.

Kh Asif, while delivering the policy statement, said the Kingdom had asked Pakistan to send aircraft, ships and ground troops to its coalition fighting rebels in Yemen.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is due to visit Islamabad on Wednesday to discuss the situation, he said. He repeated the government’s position that Pakistan was ready to defend Saudi territorial integrity. “There should be no ambiguity that if the security of Saudi territory is at stake, Pakistan will stand by it for support,” he told the lawmakers. “Saudi Arabia has requested us to send aircraft, naval vessels and ground troops.”

Kh Asif, reaffirming Pakistan’s pledge to defend Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty at all costs, said Pakistan was fighting the war against terrorism alone. “Pakistan is fighting this war against terrorism with its own resources,” he said.

“Pakistan is the only nation in the world that has taken on terrorism head on,” he added. Kh Asif said, “We have sacrificed over 50,000 lives and suffered a loss of more than 100 billion dollars to ensure global peace, but no one came to our help in this war”. Pakistan remains a sincere and committed friend to Saudi Arabia,” he maintained.

“Given the gravity of the situation, Premier Nawaz thinks that the subject merits in-depth discussion in the Parliament. The government of PML-N believes in collective decision made through a participatory discussion,” he remarked.

He informed the Parliament of the latest situation in Yemen and Pakistan’s efforts to resolve the crisis peacefully. In this connection, he referred to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Turkey, which he undertook as part of diplomatic efforts on this count. “For both Turkey and Pakistan, Saudi Arabia is a friend, a brother,” he said. “Both the countries will stand by Saudi Arabia; we stand committed to extend support to Saudi Arabia.”

He added it was important for all influential figures of the Muslim Ummah to find a peaceful solution to the Yemen crisis.

“There is a need to come to a peaceful solution,” Asif reiterated. “The government will greatly appreciate guidance of elected members in the Parliament.”

He said special PIA flights evacuated hundreds of Pakistanis stranded in Yemen. “About 34 Pakistanis will be evacuated today (Monday),” he added.

Asif thanked the Saudi government for assistance in evacuations. “We are also thankful to the Chinese government because of its help.”

After the defence minister’s statement, the house was adjourned till 5pm today (Tuesday).

Earlier, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Ahmad Shah, welcoming Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s rejoining the Parliament, questioned absence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during this important session.

In his opening speech, Opposition Leader Khurshid Shah said he was happy that the sovereignty of the Parliament had been secured and PTI’s rejoining the esteemed houses was the victory of democracy.

“I want to add some PTI members arrived earlier. If today PTI members are attending the session it is a positive moment and credit goes to the opposition,” he said. He added disputes should be resolved through holding talks. “I want to praise the opposition parties which have tried to resolve issues and now PTI is in the house.”

“I want to praise the speaker’s patience as he did not accept those resignations and today they have joined the Parliament. We welcome the PTI members and consider their return as the victory of democracy,” Shah said.

On Pakistan’s role in Yemen conflict, Shah urged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to come to the Parliament and open debate on Yemen.

Khurshid Shah said, “The prime minister who is currently with the visiting Sri Lankan president should have attended the joint session.”

“I want to ask PM Nawaz to come, sit in the Parliament and start debate on the Yemen issue. There is a joint responsibility. Since all the parliamentarians are present here, it is important that the PM should also be here,” Shah said.

“I understand he is busy, but he should have spared time, at least an hour, to attend the joint session. I request the speaker to adjourn the session for an hour and a half so that the prime minister could come to the Parliament and take part in the debate. In that case the Parliament’s decision will have some weight,” Shah said. “I understand we have a good relationship with Sri Lanka, but this session should begin at 3:30pm or 4pm and continue till tomorrow (Tuesday) as well. We understand the government’s commitments, but this session should be adjourned.”

Kh Asif said the session should continue as the prime minister’s meeting with the Sri Lankan leader was a scheduled event. The PPP leader sought a better relationship among the main political parties, saying fire could only be put out through water, and not by another fire. “Issues can only be resolved through dialogue.”

Taking the floor, the opposition leader in the upper house of the Parliament, Aitzaz Ahsan, said the speech made by the defence minister gave an impression that he wanted by-elections in 34 constituencies. He said Asif was acting like Porus’ elephants.

He added the policy given by the defence minister was vague and the government should clarify its position over Yemen crisis.

He said the government should ask the parliamentarians weather they wanted to send Pakistani troops to Yemen. He questioned if the government wanted to send troops to Yemen or Saudi Arabia, what would be their mandate.

Appreciating PTI’s decision to return to the Parliament, he said it was the only platform to resolve issues. “The government brought the PTI members back to the parliament and now the government’s ministers were sabotaging the efforts made by the ruling party and the opposition parties, including PPP and MQM,” he said.

Speaking in the Parliament, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said, “Isn’t there any accountability for those who abuse the Parliament and violate the code of conduct?” He said, “Once a resignation is submitted, there is no question of accepting or rejecting it”.

Fazl further said, “It will not be wise to bring Pakistan-Iran relations under discussion in this debate. It is good that consultations are being made and that Turkey is involved in it. We need to be informed what agreements are to be made. Helping Saudis is permissible, but what kind of help? How will Pakistan be affected by it? We need to analyse all these things so that we can move towards a better policy.” Fazl said a large part of the Muslim world was in a state of war and Pakistan should play the role of a negotiator.

The JUI-F also boycotted the session after PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi was allowed to speak. The member of JUI-F staged a walkout from the Parliament.

Awami National Party (ANP) Senator Zahid Khan criticised PTI for returning to the Parliament which Imran had described as bogus and corrupt. Zahid said Imran did not know what he was doing. “Why Khan wasted everybody’s time,” he said, while talking to media persons outside the Parliament House. PTI representatives should disown the signatures on resignations otherwise their resignations should be considered as accepted, he added.

“The nation doesn’t want politics based on falsehood. The slogan of bringing a change was a drama. Why was this drama staged?” he questioned.

Talking to media persons outside the Parliament House, MQM central leader Farooq Sattar said the joint session of the parliament was illegal and unconstitutional. He said under Article 64 of the Constitution, if a member remains absent for 40 days, he cannot remain the member. Therefore, he said, the PTI members are no more members of the assembly.

Meanwhile, a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad on Monday discussed matters pertaining to national security and situation in the Middle East.

The meeting was attended by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif, Admiral Zaka Ashraf and Air Marshal Suhail Aman. Kh Asif, Ishaq Dar and Sartaj Aziz were also present on this occasion.

The prime minister discussed the overall situation of the country and Pakistan’s role in the Middle East conflict.

Later, Nawaz joined the session, but did not address the lawmakers.

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq at 9pm adjourned the session till Tuesday (today).