ISLAMABAD - National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq fell short of accepting the opposition’s demand to resign amid ministers and treasury members’ absence on Monday but did “quit” his chair for Murtaza Javed Abbasi.

As he walked out, Sadiq smilingly said: “I am lodging my protest” – and the house burst into laughter.

The National Assembly (NA) echoed with opposition members’ slogans as they incited the speaker to quit honourably rather than leading a deserted house.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) legislator Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani was the first to start the debate on ministers’ absence when the session resumed after a two-day break. He praised Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani for threatening to resign, if the ministers did not attend the Upper House proceedings.

“Raza Rabbani’s warning worked. The ministers are in the Senate now. Can you please also follow him so that we can also enjoy their (ministers) presence,” Jakhrani said.

He mocked that some “innocent” parliamentary secretaries were being tested by the ministers to answer lawmakers’ questions.

“These poor souls don’t know anything. And the ministers have made a habit to avoid the parliament. Only you (the speaker) can lodge a strong protest like Raza Rabbani. Otherwise this trend will continue,” Jakhrani contended.

In the background the opposition members laughed satirically.

Embarrassed by the opposition’s onslaught, the speaker asked how he could walk out.

“Please don’t try to provoke me. I can’t walk out. I have however, asked the ministers to make sure they answer your questions. On Mondays and Fridays we do have a problem as (the National Assembly session) time clashes with the Senate,” he justified.

But the opposition was unstoppable.

They chanted slogans: “Move forward Ayaz Sadiq, we will follow you.”

Awami Muslim League (AML) Chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed went to the extent of offering to resign if Sadiq decided to quit.

Government ally Naeema Kishawar, from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-Fazl), was also critical of the ministers’ behaviour.

She said that it was a joke that not a single minister was present during the question hour.

Shireen Mazari from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) blamed the “leniency” of the speaker for the “negligence” of the ministers.

Not being able to take it anymore, Sadiq left the chair to make way for Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi.  Before leaving, in a lighter vein he said it was a sort of protest.

Opposition leader Khurshid Shah, speaking on a point of order, said killings in the name of religion should be stopped.

He recalled that 65 people had been killed since 1990 on charges of blasphemy but not a single person had been hanged.

Shah asked the government to bring a resolution against lynching of a student of Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan to discourage mob violence.

Shireen Mazari supported Shah on the issue.

He criticised the government for ignoring the parliament despite opposition’s hue and cry.

“Quorum has been pointed out more than 200 times and around 120 times the proceedings have been suspended [in four years]. Is this the way to run a house,” Shah questioned.

The PPP later staged a walkout over the issue of missing persons in Sindh and increased power load-shedding.

PPP’s Ramesh Lal pointed out the quorum and the house was not found in order.

The proceedings were suspended for some time.

Minutes later, the inevitable happened.

The government failed to find lawmakers in the corridors and despite Murtaza Javed Abbasi’s best efforts to delay adjournment, he finally had to say: “The house is not in order.”

There were indication, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will try to pull in maximum of its lawmakers on April 18th (today) to avoid further embarrassment.