ISLAMABAD - The remarks of Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed against the land mafia irked the opposition benches in the Senate that followed a protest walkout from the house.

The opposition parties in the Senate on Wednesday marred the entire proceedings on trivial issues and staged two consecutive walkouts from the house that led to the lack of quorum twice as well as adjournment of the house without completing its agenda.

Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed while responding to the questions about his ministry during the question hour session told the house that a land mafia had encroached upon the state-owned Railways land. He said that the ministry was moving ahead to take action against the mafia which included officials of Pakistan Railways as well. “The Railways land is not anyone’s personal property (Railways land kisi kay baap kee jageer nahi hay),” the minister said — the remarks that irked the opposition benches.

The minister also said that the government was moving a summary in the next cabinet meeting scheduled to be held on next Tuesday to decide about the unused and extra land of Railways. He said that the government would not disturb those poor people who have dwellings on Railways land but a certain mafia has built plazas on this priced land.

The minister in his written reply informed the house that an area of 5520.747 acres of Railways land has been leased out for various purposes (premium shops, stacking, agriculture and parking stands etc.) during last three years. He said that an area of 4912.683 acres of Railways land has been proposed for leasing for various purposes through open auction in a transparent manner.

PML-N Senator Tanveer Chaudhry showed his resentment over the remarks of Sheikh Rasheeed Ahmed who won July 25 election from his son Barrister Danyial Chaudhry from Rawalpindi and called his remarks un-parliamentary. He said that if Railways land did not belong to anyone, then Lal Haveli, the political abode of Railways Minister in Rawalpindi, did not belong to anyone (Lal Haveli is not jageer of anyone) but it was the property of Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB). Deputy Chairman Senate Saleem Mandviwala, who was in the chair, expunged the remarks after Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan called the remarks of both sides as un-parliamentary. However, opposition staged a protest walkout from the house that followed the lack of quorum in the house as pointed by Senator Azam Khan Musakhel and the chair had to adjourn the house for some time.

After the house resumed its proceedings, the two major opposition parties, the Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League –Nawaz (PML-N) marred the entire proceedings of the house when PTI Senator Azam Swati started giving a brief statement on a call attention notice moved by himself, The notice drew the attention of the house towards alleged failure of Result Transmission System (RTS) in the General Elections, 2018 and the performance of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in this regard. He said that ECP and National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA were blaming each other over the failure of RTS. PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani said that Senator Swati was only giving his side of the story though he was supposed to give a brief statement on the call attention notice. He said that Senator Swati should have moved an adjournment motion as the whole house wanted a debate on the issue. Rabbani said that opposition has already demanded for the formation of a parliamentary commission to probe alleged rigging in general election. Deputy Chairman Senate pointed out that rules allowed Senator Swati to speak on his call attention notice for ten minutes.

Meanwhile PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan sought to speak on a point of order which was refused by the chair. He raised hue and cry for not getting permission and said that everyone knew that the election was rigged. “This is not martial law that I cannot speak,” he said. Raza Rabbani also endorsed Senator Khan’s demand and said that he should be allowed to speak. However, the chair held that point of order could not be raised during the call attention notice and he asked Senator Swati to continue with his arguments. This irked the opposition and it staged a protest walkout from the house that led to the lack of quorum. As Senator Azam Khan Musakhel pointed out quorum, the chair adjourned the house as the house was not held in order.