ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Wednesday adopted a resolution by majority vote to extend the controversial Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO) 2014 for another 120 days, without the opposition, which staged a token walkout as a mark of protest against it.
The opposition, however, avenged the treasury’s decision to pass the ordinance on its majority by creating disturbance in the House to impede its proceedings. The treasury-opposition brawl even saw taunting and shouting between the ministers and opposition lawmakers. The debate, however, culminated at the metro bus project for the twin cities. Zahid Hamid, the legal wizard of the government, tried to calm the opposition by arguing that the PPO is necessary for the protection of the country and told them that necessary amendments have been made in it.
“We will even incorporate more amendments of the opposition for its unanimous passage,” Zahid offered the opposition, which insisted that the government withdraw the bill and wait till the committee formed by the prime minister evolved consensus over it. Participating in the debate, leader of opposition Syed Khursheed Shah said that a bill having the consent of the entire nation would be allowed to sail through the House, but claimed that the PPO bill is a direct attack on the fundamental rights of the citizens.
He then announced a walkout from the House along with all the opposition parties. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) deputy parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi advised the government to refrain from extending the PPO and claimed that except the PML-N all the political parties, civil society and human rights groups have serious reservations on it. “The government should try to evolve consensus rather than repeating the scenes of the last session when a similar kind of legislation created ugly scenes in the House,” Shah suggested.
Acknowledging the need to strengthen the defence of the country, Qureshi said it should not be at the cost of the fundamental rights of the citizens. MQM’s Rahseed Godil, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, Jamaat-e-Islami’s Tariqaullah and JUI-F’s Naeema Kishawar Khan also supported the call for withdrawing the legislation, but the government went ahead with its passage from the Lower House of parliament when the opposition parties were out of the House after boycotting the proceedings.
Taking advantage of the opposition’s absence, another 120-day extension was secured by the treasury in the Gas (Theft Control & Recovery) Ordinance 2014. Later, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq ignited the already charged House when he accused one party of dragging the government into non-issues and labelled it as “people having double standards”.
Describing the evolving situation of the region, with the governments in India and Afghanistan changing and multiple issues confronting the country internally, Saad termed the politics of some parties – an apparent reference to the PTI – immature and said it would create more anarchy in the country. About talks with the Taliban militants, he said that it is not a matter that could be resolved in a few days, noting that the history shows that bloody conflicts in various part of the world took a very long time to settle.
PTI’s Dr Sheeren Mazari took strong exception to the words of Khawaja Saad Rafiq and vowed to continue the protest. She accused the government of only making allegations against its opponents. Meanwhile, veteran parliamentarian Mahmood Khan Ackakzai said that democracy is the only way to save the country and called upon Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to bring together generals, lawyers, journalists and others to ponder over how to further democracy. He advised the government to settle the issues with Afghanistan before going for strikes in North Waziristan. Later, the House landed in another fiery debate, with an opposition lawmaker interrupting State Minister Sheikh Aftab.
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