ISLAMABAD: The opposition blew hot and cold in the National Assembly on Monday while the house also began a delayed debate on President Asif Ali Zardari’s last address to parliament.
All opposition parties began the day by jointly staging a token walkout to protest against Saturday’s police action to break up a Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) sit-in held in Lahore to protest against alleged rigging in the Aug 22 by-elections.Afterwards, the opposition benches protested against the absence of most ministers from the house.Leader of Opposition in the House Khursheed Ahmed Shah, while opening the debate on the president’s June 10 address to a joint sitting of the two houses of parliament, cautioned the PML-N government at the centre and in Punjab to avoid a Lahore-like “tamasha” (show) in the future.
Mr Shah and other lawmakers called for strengthening parliament and democracy to make the present democratic process a success, while noting, with a degree of pride the country’s first transition from one democratic government to another.The debate, which could not be held last week as scheduled and for which the present session of the lower house, which began on Aug 13, was extended for a week on Friday, began when only two weeks were left for Mr Zardari to become Pakistan’s first democratically elected president to complete his five-year term on Sept 8 as did the previous coalition government led by his PPP in March.
Mr Shah repeatedly urged political parties to join hands to strengthen parliament and democracy, which he said could be done by “tolerating each other”.While giving credit to the PPP and all other parties in parliament for making landmark amendment to the constitution and passing some other key laws during the previous coalition government’s tenure, he said an atmosphere of tolerance would strengthen Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government as well to carry out its programmes.
While proposing a “revisiting” of the National Finance Commission (NFC) award given under the PPP government, increasing the share of provinces in federal revenues, he urged the PML-N to implement what he called the remaining three points of a Charter of Democracy signed by the two parties in 2006, saying that 90 per cent of it had been implemented by the previous government.
He cited only two of the unimplemented points — formation of a constitutional court to interpret the constitution in the event of any dispute and a commission to probe the 1999 conflict with India over Kargil in Kashmir — as the third point apparently slipped from his memory which he later told reporters was a commitment by the two parties to form a “truth and reconciliation commission” as had happened in South Africa at the end of apartheid policy of racial segregation to reconcile grievances by admitting guilt.
The opposition leader stressed the necessity of addressing terrorism whether it is through dialogue or deterrence.PTI’s Shireen Mazari called for formulating a counter-terrorism policy to deal with the issue “holistically” with which, she said, “other things” needed could not be done.She criticised the government for doing nothing to stop US drone attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas and being mute about the recent deadly Indian ceasefire violations along the Line of Control in Kashmir.
Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party’s Abdul Rahim Mandokhel, while referring to what he called “terrorism nurtured here”, said the situation had reached a stage that on going out of one’s home one could not be sure of returning alive.Several other members also spoke before the house was adjourned until 10.30am on Tuesday. – Dawn