ISLAMABAD  - Announcing to boycott the presidential election being held today (Tuesday), the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) legislators on Monday staged a walkout from National Assembly (NA) session in protest against the Supreme Court verdict of rescheduling presidential poll from August 6 to July 30.
As the National Assembly session started, House began debate on presidential poll. Treasury benches termed it a constitutional step whereas the main opposition party – PPP - sticking to its stance called it a pre-poll rigging and kept on stressing on revising the date to August 6.
The one-day NA session called for adopting a resolution to convert the Parliament House into a polling booth for the presidential elections, passed a motion allowing the use of NA chamber for polling to be held today (30 July).
The House also unanimously adopted a resolution strongly condemning attack on the holy shrine of Hazrat Syeda Zainab (RA) and shelling and demolition of the mausoleum of Hazrat Khalid Bin Walid (RA) in Syria.
Taking the floor on a point of order, PPP's central leader Makhdoom Amin Fahim said his party would boycott the presidential poll for rescheduling the date from August 6 to July 30.
"On the request of a single member date was changed...Now ruling party -PML-N - should write another letter otherwise we would boycott the election," said PPP leader, before staging walkout from the proceedings of the House with party members.
He said they fielded Senator Raza Rabbani to strengthen the democratic process and fulfill constitutional requirements knowing the PPP’s strength and its allied partners.
"The change of schedule is not acceptable to PPP‚ ANP‚ PML-Q and BNP-Awami, as they would stay away from presidential poll," he said, adding that Supreme Court had given decision unilaterally on an application submitted by ruling party member Raja Zafarul Haq, as other stakeholders were not heard in this matter.
Talking about the petition stating that some parliamentarians would not be able to vote as they would perform Ummrah or 'Aitkaf', he said it’s not a religious obligation. "Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) due to its weakness threw ball in the court of Supreme Court (SC), he added.
Amin Faheem also invited PTI to join hands with them to boycott the presidential election as in this way a strong opposition voice would emerge. He also slightly criticised JUI-F for supporting ruling party. PPP legislators wearing black ribbons also kept shouting slogans 'shame, shame'.
Taking the floor, another opposition party member from PTI Shah Mahmood Qureshi was of the view that though they respected decision of PPP but boycott was not the real solution. "Supreme Court (SC) should have heard the viewpoint of other stakeholders too," he said, adding that the unilateral decision had raised many objections.
PML-N and its allies had numerical superiority and the opposition was not in a position to get its candidate elected even if there was a unanimous candidate, he added.
"We also have the option to boycott election but to strengthen democratic traditions we will participate in the election," he maintained.
PTI, during the presidential candidate campaign, also proposed to PPP to nominate a non-controversial consensus but PPP unilaterally nominated Mian Raza Rabbani. He also asked PPP to participate in the presidential election by ending its boycott.
Giving response to reservations flaunted by opposition parties’ members, PML-N leader and Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif said the PPP's decision to boycott the presidential election was an afterthought to run from the contest sensing ground realities.
"I, on the advice of leadership, called Syed Khurshid Shah to share names of three presidential candidates short listed by PML-N and also sensitised him about the possibility of advancing the polling date," he said, adding that Leader of the Opposition had not raised any concern or reservation at that time but now they were showing reservations.
"There is no need to create any ambiguity and all parties should fully participate in it," he added.
PML-N member said they approached the Supreme Court (SC) when its request for advancing the date was rejected by the Election Commission (EC). "We adopting constitutional way approached the SC," he added.
Later, the legislators of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) also staged a walkout from the proceedings of the House against loadshedding in some areas of KPK during Sehr and Iftar and dysfunctional transformers which were creating problems. On it, Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif said they were establishing more workshops for repairing transformers.
In response to a call-attention notice, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that a new bill would be tabled in the House to curtail gas theft in the country.