ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly on Friday witnessed divergence of opinion among opposition parties on the issue of initiating debate on the last address of President Asif Ali Zardari to the joint sitting of the Parliament in the current session (4th session); however, the matter was later resolved.

The opposition parties except Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) having their solid arguments did not agree to extend the current session for one more week to initiate debate on the President’s address in the current session, which was to be prorogued on Friday.

Speaker National Assembly Iyaz Sadiq after facing criticism for taking a solo flight for extending one week of the session took responsibility for not repeating this practice in future and requested to agree to his point. “It was my mistake. I take this responsibility and assure no such recurrence in future,” he added.

Both Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah decided on Thursday night to complete debate on the address of President before the end of Zardari’s tenure, which will end on 8th September. Except PPPP, the major opposition party including Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami Mulsim League (AML) legislators expressed annoyance for not deciding the important matter in business advisory committee.

Syed Khursheed Shah on a point of order said that debate on President Asif Ali Zardari’s speech should be completed before the end of Zardari’s tenure. “Opposition always argues for conducting session but here matter is different. It will not suit to debate on address after the expiry of his tenure,” he said, adding that he had consulted with member of opposition parties about the extension of current session. Taking the floor, PTI’s senior leader argued that President’s address to joint session is considered as policy of the government. “It is not the speech of President but it should be taken as the government’s policy.

There is no time limit to debate on it,” he maintained.

Endorsing Javed Hashmi’s point, Deputy Parliamentary Leader of PTI said that the debate will not be meaningless if it continued after the end of President Asif Ali Zardari’s tenure.

Adding his share, another PTI leader Shafqat Mehmood said that leader of opposition had not consulted but informed about the one-week extension of the current session. He said that it had been on agenda items for the last week but debate was even not initiated on it.

AML President Sheikh Rashid and MQM’s Abdur Rashid also raised their voice against extending the period of the session without their consultation, putting onus on the Speaker and the opposition leader for taking a solo flight.

Whereas, a senior leader from Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Mahmood Khan Achakzai had requested to endorse the decision with an open heart. “It will be unsuitable to debate his address after his leaving the office,” he added. Later, the matter was resolved when the Speaker remarked the matter was discussed late night therefore Business Advisory Committee could not be convened. “I take this responsibility, let’s move forward,” he added. A member from treasury benches drew the attention of the house towards restriction of women to cast their votes in bye-elections. “The government should take strict action on this important matter as it was right of all to cast their votes,” said Naeema Kishwar Khan from JUI-F on a point of order.

The house also saw thin presence of ministers to give answer to the questions of the lawmakers during the question-hour. Taking the floor, PML-N’s Sheikh Aftab informed the house that he would talk to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif about the absence of ministers from the proceeding of the house. On it, Speaker Iyaz Sadiq made a point that the question-hour session would be meaningless if the concerned ministers will not be present to answer the questions.

Earlier, Minister for Interior Ch Nisar Ali Khan, during the question-hour in a written reply, informed that a total of 98,423 non-prohibited bore licences and 34,186 prohibited bore licences were issued by ministry of Interior during the last five years.

The minister further said that a total of 12,145 culprits were arrested in terrorist activities in the country during the last five years. To another question, Sheikh Aftab Ahmad informed that a sum of Rs 71.94 billion has been paid by ERRA to the affectees of earthquake 2005.

Replying to a question during the question hour, he said there was no approved amount for the affectees, however, a total of 611,059 affectees have been paid across the board Rs 25,000 each.