Press Gallery: Pandemonium in the National Assembly
By Rana Qaisar
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Monday witnessed the worst pandemonium since its formation last year. The opposition broke all records of its protest and the house turned into a pandemonium. Just short of blows, the treasury members shouted at women members of the opposition. It all happened as the speaker refused to issue an order to the government to produce ARD president and PML-N parliamentary leader Javed Hashmi in parliament. He was arrested on charges of treason.
As the house took up the business of the day, the opposition members gathered in front of the speaker’s podium to demand the production order and chanted full-throated “go-Musharraf-go, go-speaker-go,” and the house looked like an unruly public demonstration. The PML-N’s Tehmina Daultana tore the rules of the business into pieces and threw them at the speaker, who warned the opposition members to behave, or else he would take action against them.
The opposition members, as part of their strategy, had brought four banners inscribed with anti-government slogans into the house and the situation got worst when some uncouth treasury members tried to snatch a banner, inscribed with “state terrorism is not accepted”, from Memoona Hashmi and scuffled with her. This escalated the situation and the commando in Raja Nadir Pervez got enraged as PML-QA’s Tariq Javed tried to manhandle Ms Hashmi.
The prime minister watched, glued to his seat, indifferent to the treasury members adding fuel to a fire which could have extinguished itself, as the fasting members of the opposition were exhausting themselves with their sloganeering and tempers had started calming. The helplessness of the prime minister and the speaker, who were not consulted for Javed Hashmi’s arrest, prompted the opposition to demand freedom for them and chant “Meray mauola dey dey aazadi, Jamali ko dey dey aazadi aur speaker ko dey dey aazadi (My God give freedom to Jamali and the speaker)”.
The prime minister doesn’t want to intervene in the matter, which is apparently being handled by the Army itself, forgetting and forgiving those who had renamed the corps commanders as “crore commanders” and called General Musharraf a “security risk”.
But Mr Jamali is determined to support any action the speaker takes against the opposition and has left the case of Javed Hashmi to the judiciary, which some suggest should not have put him in physical remand without him being produced in court. He wants all those to be taken to task who block parliament and go beyond what the constitution allows. Of course, no one is above the law but the law needs to be applied to all those who undermine the supremacy of parliament and violate the constitution.
As the chaos continued, the speaker adjourned the house for zohar prayers and opposition members did not return to the house when it resumed 20 minutes later. The opposition demonstrated outside parliament while the treasury spoke in the house condemning the opposition for disrespecting the office of the speaker. But the government itself created a situation for the opposition to humiliate the speaker. Had the speaker issued the production order for Javed Hashmi, he would strengthen himself as custodian of the house, leaving it to the government to decided whether to allow Mr Hashmi to attend the house or not.
But the myopic advisers of the government who advised the arrest of Javed Hashmi two weeks after the controversial letter had been ignored as rubbish, have now persuaded the government not to issue the order for Mr Hashmi. Information Minister Sheikh Rashid is right when he says that the opposition’s behaviour in the parliament will be one of the reasons to justify any decision against the system. But he is forgetting that the enemy is within and conspiring to create such a situation by bringing the government and the opposition head-on for a final showdown and give the president an excuse to wrap all this up.
As the opposition boycotted the National Assembly proceedings after the prayers, the treasury continued with the agenda of the day and adopted two motions for the constitution of 40 standing committees and one special committee on Kashmir as a step forward to complete parliament. But the opposition leaders in both the houses of parliament have yet to be named. It seems to be government strategy to keep the opposition parties rudderless. This is the longest period in Pakistan’s parliamentary history that both the houses of the parliament lack leaders of the opposition.