ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly continued to miss Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and most of his cabinet members as the house debated the oil prices yesterday.

For the last few sessions, the opposition parties have been pressing the Prime Minister to give time to the parliament and ask his ministers to do the same.

The negligence is not restricted to the treasury side alone, even the opposition lawmakers always find something more important than the parliamentary proceedings resulting in the ever thinning presence in the assembly hall.

As quorum was pointed out several times in the recent sessions, the chair also directed the cabinet members to be present in the assembly but this fell to deaf ears.

Reports said Prime Minister Sharif and his arch-rival Imran Khan – the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chief – led the team of habitual absentees in the last six sessions of the National Assembly.

Opposition parties also suggested to make laws to bind ministers to attend the proceedings and be available to answer the lawmakers’ questions.

Prime Minister Sharif was in Bahawalpur yesterday where many eyebrows were when he criticised the National Accountability Bureau – asking its chief to stop harassing ‘innocent’ people.

Outside the parliament, opposition leader Khurshid Shah said the Prime Minister and most of his ministers were experienced parliamentarians and could not be taught to show presence in the assembly.

He said the habitual absentees only undermined the importance of the parliament that made them the ministers or the Prime Minister.

“This is the house that elevates them to high offices and they should respect it. The thinning presence in the assembly means weak democracy,” he remarked.

Shah said he and other lawmakers had raised the issue many times but the government was not giving due importance to the proceedings.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Farooq Sattar said the government was shy of the parliament as it was not doing anything for the betterment of the people.

He said the ministers were showing least interest in the parliamentary proceedings which was tantamount to insulting the parliament.

Recently, the opposition had tried to bind Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend the assembly sessions by amending the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly but the premier’s loyalists stopped the passage. The treasury benches defeated the opposition’s move by 73 to 60 votes.

During the yesterday’s proceedings, Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Rehan Hashmi resigned from the National Assembly. He is likely to be appointed as the administrator of the district municipal corporation in district central of Karachi.

Hashmi was elected as vice chairman of his union council on December 5, 2015. He was elected as Member of National Assembly from NA-245 in 2013. Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi announced that Rehan Hashmi had tendered his resignation.

Earlier, Khurshid Shah said the government was charging 69.5 percent sales tax on diesel while the overall 37 percent sales tax was being collected from petroleum products.

He said the government was collecting Rs 300 billion on account of sales tax on petroleum products. The total oil import bill of the country was $11-12 billion during the PPP-led government while currently it fluctuated between $5-6 billion.

He added the electricity tariff should also be slashed as fuel prices had reduced significantly at the international market. He alleged that despite lower prices of fuel, power tariff was enhanced for all consumers.

Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said maximum relief could be provided to the poor masses by slashing fuel prices as per international market.

He said the international sanctions imposed on Iran have been lifted and the government should initiate work on Pak-Iran gas pipeline.

Asad Umar of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf alleged record taxes were levied by the government. He claimed diesel prices in 72 countries were less than Pakistan. He said three additional taxes were included in electricity bills.

Every passing day opposition lawmakers outside the assembly mocked the government’s attitude towards the parliament and everybody longed to see the premier attending the proceedings more often.