NA session extended : Sadiq calms down MPs with apology
24 August, 2013
ISLAMABAD: Stretching the National Assembly session for another week brought embarrassment for Speaker Ayaz Sadiq in the Lower House when the opposition parties sans Pakistan People's Party (PPP) criticised the move.
The session, scheduled to end on Friday, has been prolonged to conduct mandatory debate on presidential address lingering on for the last many sessions despite being on the order of the day.
"I take the responsibility for extending the session without consulting the opposition," Sadiq said, and pledged not to repeat the mistake in the future.
This apology served as a neutraliser, and helped bring down the high tempers of members of the opposition benches.
The opposition then agreed to extend the session, which will now take up the debate on the presidential address.
Criticism by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami Muslim League's lone legislator Sheikh Rashid Ahmed did not even spare opposition leader Syed Khurshid Shah, when they voiced their concerns over his step to reach an understanding with the government over extending the session without taking other opposition groups on board. The opposition parties, who had so far taken a united front, appeared divided in the session.
Khurshid Shah, however, asserted that the extension in the session suited the opposition parties. For the first time, he witnessed such a scene where the opposition was objecting to the stretched session.
Responding to criticism of Sheikh Rashid Ahmed about friendly opposition, Shah said that opposition did not mean to always lambaste the government. "We will do opposition on issues," he said.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi of the PTI and Abdul Rashid Godil of the MQM countered Khurshid Shah by saying that they had no objection at all to prolong the session for another week, but the way adopted to extend it was inappropriate.
"Who took this decision and where it was taken, we don't know. We simply know that this House had no information, and [we] got this news after reaching the assembly hall," Qureshi said.
Sheikh Rashid sounded more critical while talking on the issue, and declared that he could not subscribe to the decision of just one person.
Makhdoom Javed Hashmi contended the point of the opposition leader by saying that President Zardari's tenure was expiring on September 8, and it would be useless to debate on his address after his departure from office.
"The departure and arrival of a president doesn't matter because the presidential speech is not a personal speech of the president, but is the policy speech of the sitting government," Hashmi said.
Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai advised the opposition parties not to make it "a matter of ego".
"It is everyone's mistake that they could not start the obligatory debate on the presidential address," he stated.
Earlier, responding to a question, Khurram Dastagir Khan told the House that the government had devised a comprehensive plan to get rid of the circular debt, which was again piling up despite payment of more than Rs 500 billion to power producers by the present government.
Giving reasons for resurfacing of the circular debt, he pointed out that the government was selling electricity at Rs 10.95 per unit on average against the production cost of Rs 14.66 per unit, which was causing problems in the power sector.
Earlier, Ayaz Sadiq expressed his annoyance over the questions that were not responded to, and the absence of the minister concerned. The state minister for parliamentary affairs assured the speaker that he would take up the matter with the prime minister.