ISLAMABAD - Senior lawmakers of treasury and opposition benches in the national assembly blew hot and cold on Thursday over alleged government apathy towards the Balochistan tragedy, as the House was informed that 348 people have so far lost their lives in Tuesday’s earthquake and the death toll could further rise.

The treasury benches said the opposition should not go for ‘point-scoring’ on this tragic incident. Whereas, the opposition kept insisting that they staged a walkout on Wednesday over the government’s apathy. Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan and Leader of the Opposition Khurshid Shah kept engaged for over half an hour arguing about opposition’s protest walkout.

Taking the floor, Nisar said that opposition should not play with galleries on tragic incidents. “I can also bring into notice of the house the negligence of previous government,” the minister said. Nisar said that federal ministers Abdul Qadir Baloch and Jam Kaml had visited the worst-hit Mashkay tehsil to assess the situation and he would himself visit Balochistan tomorrow (Friday) to see rescue and relief work.

In a policy statement, the minister said that death toll could further rise as some areas are still inaccessible due to lack of roads. To provide rescue and relief, he said C-130 planes would soon start transporting relief goods to the affected areas. He also said that rockets were fired at rescue teams trying to provide relief to the affectees in some specific areas.

About tragic incident, Nisar said the earthquake had affected 500 square kilometres area in Balochistan – mainly Awaran and Kech districts. As many as 1,000 army personnel are helping the affectees, he said, adding that NLC (national logistics cell) has also been mobilised to transport relief goods to the affected areas. He said that Army has set up a medical camp in Mashkay tehsil, and doctors and surgeons were treating the injured.

Taking the floor, Leader of Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah strongly reacted over the remarks of interior minister about the opposition over their staging a walkout from the House. Irritated on Nisar’s using of word ‘Tamasha’ (drama) for opposition’s action, he said it is national assembly, not a circus, where theatrical plays are performed. “We are not in favour of creating mess in the House but if you want it, we will do it,” he warned in a harsh tone.

In response to the challenge by Nisar about record of dereliction by previous government, PPP’s senior legislator accepting the challenge said that government is answerable on its performance. “We have not given tough time to the government on increase of price hike, considering it is their honeymoon period and faced taunt of friendly opposition from different quarters,” he said, adding that opposition held a walkout protest over government apathy in a peaceful manner.

Nisar, who took floor thrice on this issue, said that government would not succumb to the warning of opposition benches. He said that seven ministers were present in the House when opposition walked out. PTI lawmaker, on point of order, said that opposition parties staged walkout to awaken this government as they felt its response was a muted one. “Minister for Interior ought to speak gently,” he said, adding that if rocket launchers were being used then who would tackle the political side of the Balochistan’s law and order problem as even the provincial cabinet was yet to be formed.

Opposition member Rashid Godil from MQM said that incumbent government was taking no practical steps to control different key issues. Another lawmaker Alia Kamran proposed donating two days salaries of the lawmakers for affectees of Peshawar blast and Balochistan’s calamity. The house also adopted resolutions about ensuring infallible security in federal capital, rising price of petroleum in the country and loadshedding.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs sheikh Aftab, in response to a call-attention notice about ‘Margalla tunnel’, said there was no proposal under consideration about this project. “The CDA has not been given any direction about the tunnel however suggestions do come on various issues from time to time but all are not implemented,” he informed.

To another call-attention notice about arrest of the pilot by UK police from the cockpit of PIA’s plane, the minister admitted that the pilot was drunk and added that inquiry into incident was underway. The house will be taken into confidence about other details, he said. To a pedantic approach from opposition about unveiling the father’s name of pilot, he expressed ignorance about it.

The lawmakers from treasury and opposition also discussed the rising cost of agriculture inputs and its products in the country. MNA Nawan Yusuf Talpur said that India was giving 30 trillion subsidy on agriculture sector. MNA from DG Khan, Awais Leghari said there was need to boost up research sector for agriculture. A senior treasury lawmaker warned that there was need for reservoirs in the country. “If proper steps were not taken to store rainwater then Quetta city might become a desert,” he averred.

The House, during question-hour, was informed that the Most Favoured Nation status would be granted to India on the basis of mutual interests while security always remains the top priority agenda despite all best interests of both the nations. Minister of State for Education and Trainings Muhammad Balighur Rehman informed the house that it was not possible to grant the status at a time when there is tension on the borders.

He further said that dialogue took place between Pakistan and India in 2011-12 on this matter. The minister said that decision to open Khokhrapar-Monabao route for normal trade was taken during their meeting held on February 2012 at Islamabad. “There has been a significant progress‚“ he said, adding that further progress depends on the resumption of composite dialogue between the two countries. He said Negative Item List has been reduced to 1,209 from over 2,000 items.