ISLAMABAD  -   The opposition parties on Wednesday staged a protest walkout from the Senate over the absence of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the house as he had to give an explanation on the remarks of Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier made in Iran.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Azam Khan Swati rose to respond to the call attention notice that drew attention of the foreign minister over the statement of prime minister he made in Tehran that terrorists in the past had used Pakistan’s soil to undertake attacks in Iran.

The opposition benches did not allow Swati to respond and insisted that first Prime Minister Imran Khan should have been present in the house to defend his statement and if not, then Qureshi at least should have been present as “the statement had wide implications.”

The parliamentary affairs minister quoting the constitution said that the cabinet was collectively responsible to both the house of the parliament. He demanded of the opposition to quote the relevant law or rules that barred any minister to respond on behalf of another minister

When Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani ruled that any minister can respond as cabinet was collectively responsible to the parliament, the opposition staged a protest walkout which was second one on a single day. The protest led to the earlier adjournment of the house due to lack of quorum without completing the agenda present on the orders of the day.  Soon after the walkout, Leader of the House Senator Shibli Faraz criticized the position for disrupting the house proceedings more than once within a week and blamed former chairman Senate and PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani for the “mess”. “This would have to be seen how much the opposition is serious in running the house.” He said that even opposition lawmakers were angry with Rabbani for forcing them to hold continuous walkouts daily. He also blamed that one or two other opposition lawmakers were also instrumental behind these walkouts.

The chair in his ruling said that the opposition benches should propose an amendment to the constitutional provision of collective responsibility. He also said that not a single prime minister has ever attended the “Zero Hour” since rules were amended to bind the chief executive to respond to answers of senators.

Before this, former chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani said that at least foreign minister should have been present in the house to reply on the statement given by the PM. He said that the minister could take cover the collective responsibility provision if the statement was only related to the country’s foreign policy. “The government is misusing the provision of collective responsibility.” He said that even PM Imran Khan himself should have come to defend to his statement.

Condemning the attack outside the famous sufi shrine of Data Darbar in Lahore, the parliamentary leader of PPP in the Senate Sherry Rehman remarked that unfortunately, terrorism had been rearing its head in the month of Ramazan.

“But neither the opposition have been taken into confidence on the implementation of NAP nor has the PM issued any statement in this regard,” she said.

She added that the government took nine months to form the all-important Parliamentary Committee on National Security Committee but now a single meeting of it has not been summoned todate.

Urging that the Prime Minister should be pressed to attend the Senate, Rehman asked, “Why does the Prime Minister not visit the house?” She urged that PM should brief the house on NAP implementation.

Soon after the walkout of opposition, a lawmaker of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawmaker pointed out that the house was not in quorum. The Chairman Senate first ignored his call and quickly held voting on the Elections (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019. The bill that was passed by the house with majority vote provides for grouping of two or more separate areas in a constituency for the purpose of elections in recently merged tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Under the rules of business of the house, once quorum has been pointed out, first count has to be made and then the house continues with it agenda if found in quorum.

After the house passed the bill in the absence of opposition, the chair ordered for a count and later adjourned the house due to lack of quorum.

Earlier during the question hour session, the opposition parties staged a first walked out from the house for five minutes protesting the absence of the government ministers to respond to the parliamentary business. Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed moved a question of privilege against an official of FC for blocking its way to participate in an election rally to be held in KP. The chair held that a decision on the motion would be taken in his chamber.