ISLAMABAD - The opposition parties in yesterday’s National Assembly session failed to bind Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to ensure his presence in the lower house and answer the queries raised by lawmakers.

The combined opposition jointly gave tough time to treasury benches by making an attempt to introduce amendment in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business.

The Prime Minister narrowly escaped to come under newly proposed amendment as numerical strength of treasury benches saved him.

PPP’s proposed amendment could not get leave to introduce as at the time of counting only 60 members from opposition were present in the house.

Interestingly, PkMAP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai from treasury benches also put weight behind opposition’s move and voted for opposition benches.

The government side saved the Prime Minister on the issue of ensuring his presence during the question-hour with the strength of 73 lawmakers in the house during the counting over the amendment.

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, over the objections of opposition parties, twice conducted counting as opposition claimed majority of their lawmakers over the bill.

But the government benches twice rejected the amendment introduced by PPP’s lawmakers with the support of other opposition members.

Taking the floor, opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah said that the Prime Minister should give proper time to parliament. “The government should not oppose the amendment, as the prime minister missed the opportunity to become answerable...It was dictator’s style from the government side,” said the opposition leader. A report should also be shared with the house about the alleged careless attitude of government in the parliament. “A report about presence of ministers in the house during the question-hour should be shared with the house,” he said adding that the government should strengthen the parliament by ensuring their presence.

He also criticized the government for not distributing funds among opposition members for uplift programs.

Naveed Qamar from PPP came down hard over the government’s attitude in the house. “Signs of demise are visible as ministers’ absence in the house is a routine business,” he added.

Opposing the amendment, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Shaikh Aftab Ahmad said it is the collective responsibility of the Cabinet to respond to the questions raised by the opposition benches.

The insertion of a new rule in the rules of procedure says, “79 (A) PM’s Question Time: There shall be a PM’s question time on the first Wednesday of every session. In the second half hour of Question Hour, the PM shall respond to questions submitted by the members,”.

“Provided that the leader of the opposition shall precedence over other members when taking up the questions and may ask not more than three supplementary questions,” it says, adding that the provision relating to questions shall apply mutatis-mutandis to the PM’s Question time’.

The amendment was moved by PPP lawmakers including Dr. Azra Fazal, Dr. Nafisa Shah, Syed Naveed Qamar, Aijaz Jhakrani, Shazia Marri, Shahida Rehmani, Imran Zafar and Shagufta Jumani.

The house also rejected a resolution about effectiveness of National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) moved by Nafisa.

Responding to the opposition’s concern, Parliamentary Secretary for Interior Maryam Aurangzeb said that the government had allocated Rs 1210.98 million for NACTA. The NACTA had a central role in coordination of intelligence sharing.

She said that a Joint Intelligence Directorate in NACTA would start its functions soon and it was an important component of National Action Plan (NAP).

She claimed that national internal counter terrorism policy was formed in February 2014 and under the NAP operation against terrorists was started in the entire country. She was of the view that law and order situation had improved in the country.

“Registration of Madaris and INGOs is being disciplined and a six-pint registration form in this regard is prerequisite.”

Earlier, PPP’s MNA Nafisa Shah said that NACTA had no role in steps being taken against the war on terrorism.

Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan, winding up the debate on steps to control price-hike, said that the government managed to maintain prices of commodities.

Two bills “The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2016” (Amendment of Article 11) and “The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2016” were also introduced and referred to concerned standing committees.