Pakistan News

NA witnesses a directionless PTI

NA witnesses a directionless PTI

ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) caused embarrassment to each other in the National Assembly on Friday by going off at a tangent on two occasions. The party, which otherwise acts as a disciplined unit in the house, lacked coordination on the day.

Because it was Friday and the last day of the current session the house was in thin attendance and it was prorogued when the opposition pointed out lack of quorum.

The first item on order of the day after the mandatory question hour was a call-attention notice moved by the young brigade of PTI lawmakers. Shehryar Afridi, Dr Imran Khattak, Qaiser Jamal and Murad Saeed had invited “attention of the Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony to a matter of urgent public importance regarding the need to promote religious and cultural tourism with neighbouring countries, especially with India, to create a soft image of Pakistan at regional as well as international level to dissipate the consequences of the recent terrorist attacks in the world, causing grave concern amongst the public.”

After the notice was taken up, Minister of State for Religious Affairs Pir Mohammad Aminul Hasnat Shah made a brief statement, saying that the government was taking every possible measure to facilitate Hindu and Sikh pilgrims from India. He said Pakistan received 9,000 Indian pilgrims each year and they visit their sacred places and move freely in the country. Whereas, he added, India allowed only 800 Pakistanis to visit Sufi shrines in the country and that too with severe travel restrictions.

Under the rules, a mover of the notice is allowed to ask one question.

Therefore, one by one PTI legislators asked if the ministry had prepared a religious tourism policy, and if yes, how much funds had been earmarked for the purpose.

Answering the question, the minister said that although there was no policy, the government had taken a number of special initiatives to provide hassle-free visit and comfortable arrangements to Indian pilgrims.

Murad Saeed, who was the last to ask his question, took everybody by surprise when he said: “I am withdrawing my name from this call-attention notice in protest,” putting his colleagues in an embarrassing situation.

Blaming the Indian government and its agencies for anti-Pakistan activities, he said: “I cannot remain part of this call-attention notice which calls for promoting cultural and religious tourism with India.”

The recent arrest of an alleged agent of Indian spy agency RAW in Balochistan had confirmed that India was hatching conspiracies against Pakistan, he added.

Another embarrassment for PTI members came when the house witnessed heated arguments between two senior members of the party — Dr Shireen Mazari and Asad Umar.

Dr Mazari wanted to raise her objection to a bill moved by the government regarding the salary of members of the Pakistan Election Commission.

But, when Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi did not allow her to speak on the issue, she rose from her seat and protested. She finally pointed out the lack of quorum which eventually ended the session.

At that moment Asad Umar was seen shaking his head in disbelief. He walked up to the seat of Dr Mazari and it was not difficult for people in the press gallery to surmise that they were engaged in an exchange of words.

Mr Umar later told Dawn that he along with members of PPP and Muttahida Qaumi Movement wanted to raise a point of order highlighting “how the prime minister is overruling the role of a bipartisan committee of the two houses constituted earlier this week to make recommendations for the PIA by announcing setting up of another public sector airline”.

But, according to him, Dr Mazari’s move killed the initiative.

Till leaving the premises of the Parliament House, Mr Umar couldn’t believe that because of a member of his own party an opportunity to put the prime minister in the dock was wasted.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2016

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