ISLAMABAD -  The treasury lawmakers were hunting for their colleagues in the corridors of the parliament building on Wednesday and begging the opposition lawmakers to maintain quorum in the National Assembly.

The ruling party legislators were however, more interested in the hall a few feet away – the Senate - where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had appeared like the proverbial blue moon.

PM Sharif is accused by the opposition of ignoring the parliamentary proceedings but his attendance in the Senate is even poorer.

Interestingly, in the senate the members even long to see the ministers.

Opposition lawmakers mocked that the treasury members wanted to meet the Prime Minister to get his signatures on their applications which were “pending” for months, due to the PM’s absence from the house.

Quorum was pointed out twice and the proceedings were suspended to count the members on the last day of the session.

Pakistan People’s Party leader Ijaz Jhakrani first invited the chair’s attention to the empty chairs and when the proceedings restarted after the count, Jhakrani challenged the quorum again leading to another head count.

When it seemed the government might have saved the day, Musarrat Zeb indicated the quorum, which suspended the proceedings yet again.

Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi was called down to improve the members’ strength and Speaker Ayaz Sadiq took the chair.

The treasury members begged the opposition lawmakers to remain in the house as others rushed to the corridors to find their colleagues who desperately wanted to meet the premier outside the Senate.

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq did not have the option to adjourn the proceedings to avoid the embarrassment as the government wanted to get the “The Public Private Partnership Authority Bill, 2017” and “The Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Bill, 2017” passed before the session was prorogued.

Many Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Nawaz) legislators were seen engaging the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the PPP and other parties’ members to keep the required strength in the house.

Every opposition lawmaker who hinted to leave was “captured” by the treasury legislators as if to say, “Please don’t go, we need you.”  

Despite having a clear majority in the National Assembly, the government has been facing embarrassment on the quorum issue for as long as one can remember.

PM Sharif even conveyed it to his party lawmakers that those skipping the proceedings regularly may not be awarded party tickets in the general elections, due next year but even this has failed to persuade the habitual absentees.

PPP’s Nafeesa Shah said when the prime minister himself was avoiding the parliament how could he convince others to ensure attendance.

She said that the PPP members and opposition leader Khurshid Shah had always tried to attend the parliamentary proceedings but the treasury benches were normally vacant.

Musarrat Zeb contended that the government had a majority in the house but was not able to produce its members in the assembly.

“They should not rely on the opposition for quorum,” she quipped.