ISLAMABAD  - The government on Monday faced an embarrassing situation in National Assembly when most of the federal ministers, who were supposed to answer written and oral questions of lawmakers, were found absent from the lower house.
Monday’s session of the lower house was also supposed to wind up discussion on the incident of attack on Army Public School in Peshawar, however, occupants of both treasury and opposition benches including Leader of the Opposition Syed Khurshid Shah were found absent during the question-hour session.
Soon after the question hour started, Deputy Speaker Murtaza Abbasi named the minister concerned for answering queries of members and after knowing about the absence of that minister, he jumped to another question relating to another minister who was also turned out to be absent from the house.
Out of the 40-member size of federal cabinet, only three federal ministers were available in the house. And the available minister either was not supposed to answer questions or the questioners (MNAs) were absent.
Several MNAs chuckled when Abbasi read out seven questions consecutively for which neither the questioner nor any minister was available in the house to answer.
This angered Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan who termed the mass absence of ministers as an embarrassing situation for the government saying he would personally bring the issue into the notice Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Mr Sharif too was not present in the house.
But Nisar soon disappeared after venting his anger although some questions that pertained to his ministry also surfaced but at that time the interior minister had left the house bringing the total number of available ministers in the house to two.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab, who was requested by the deputy speaker to call the minister concerned for making it to the house, came back with a news that lot of federal ministers were stuck in traffic jams and would be arriving soon.
Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was not available for answering a query relating to theft of crude oil in Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that amounted to Rs20 billion, the biggest oil theft ever reported in the country.
And Finance Minister Ishaq Dar who was supposed to put before the National Assembly the annual report of Central Board of Directors of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on the state of Pakistan’s economy, was one of the other key federal ministers who remained at bay from the house on Monday.
PPP lawmaker Ayaz Soomro too raised his eyebrows over what he said the en bloc absence of federal ministers thanking Interior Minister for pointing out the issue arguing that National Assembly was representing the public and issues should be resolved on this platform.
Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Lt Gen (retired) Abdul Qadir Baloch who was available in the house for answering questions did not speak on floor of the house as in his case, the members who had put the questions were not available in the lower house.
Deputy Speaker Murtaza Abbasi, however, took notice of the prolonged absence of PTI lawmakers who, he said, had been missing from attending the session for 40 days.