NA Speaker adjourns NA session again

MNAs clash as speaker adjourns no-trust session until 12:30 pm: Shehbaz Sharif, Asad Qaiser exchange arguments about NA agenda: PML-N leader warns delay will be contrary to SC ruling, tells speaker to forget past, stand for Constitution and law: Asad Qaiser says he will conduct proceedings as per Supreme Court order: Qureshi says he vouches for authenticity of ‘threatening letter’

By: News Desk
Published: 11:08 AM, 9 Apr, 2022
NA Speaker adjourns NA session again
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The National Assembly session to decide the fate of Prime Minister Imran Khan via voting on a no-confidence motion against him has been adjourned yet again and is now expected to resume at 9:30pm after Isha prayers.

NA Speaker Asad Qaiser was chairing today's session when it began at 10:30am sharp, in accordance with the Supreme Court's directives, and with the recitation of the Holy Quran. It was followed by the national anthem and prayers for the recently deceased mother of MNA Shazia Sobia.

However, Amjad Ali Khan Niazi chaired the session for a brief period as the session resumed after the adjournment before Qaiser returned.

According to sources, consensus has reached between Speaker Qaiser and the opposition leaders during a meeting that took place at President's chamber soon after the session’s adjournment by the speaker as the opposition was fumed at the hasty break. 

In the meeting, the opposition leaders including PPP Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, JUI leader Maulana Asad Mehmood, PML-N leaders Rana Sanaullah, Ayaz Sadiq and PPP’s Naveed Qamar apprised the speaker of their reservations asking latter to conduct voting on their resolution today as per the Supreme Court order.  

From government side, besides Speaker Asad Qaiser, the meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Amir Dogar.

The speaker has assured the opposition leaders that voting on no-trust motion would be held at 8pm tonight whereas the assembly session would resume after a little while. 

It has been decided that leaders from government and opposition parties would cut short their speeches. There would be a break for Iftar. After that the assembly would finally vote on the much-delayed no-confidence motion at 8pm, sources concluded. 

Filibuster tactics

The crucial National Assembly session which has no-trust vote against Prime Minister Imran Khan on its agenda came to an abrupt recess as the speaker who seemed to adopt filibuster tactics adjourned the session for two hours, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

Speaker Asad Qaiser was presiding over the National Assembly session in which 175 opposition members and only 82 members of the government were taking part.

As the lawmakers clashed angrily the house which remained in session for about only 30 rowdy minutes was abruptly adjourned by the speaker without giving any reason for two hours and now it would resume its proceedings at 12:30pm. 

Tempers rose as Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif insisted a vote be held immediately -- as ordered by the Supreme Court Thursday -- but Imran Khan loyalists demanded discussion first on their leader's claims there had been foreign interference in the process.

"You will run proceedings of the house under the order of the Supreme Court," said a furious Shehbaz, wagging his finger. "Parliament is going to write a new history. Today, the parliament is going to defeat a... prime minister."

"We intend to face it in accordance with law and constitution," replied Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, adding: "It is my duty to defend the motion."

According to media reports, the government had planned to delay the no-trust vote by indulging in creating fuss over Lettergate issue and by giving floor to its members who would make lengthy speeches, thus employing filibuster to prolong the session and delay the vote. 

But the opposition on its part was also determined to get voting done on the no-trust motion against the premier.

(A filibuster, originating from the US senate in early 1880s, is a political procedure in which one or more members of a legislative body prolong debate on proposed legislation so as to delay or entirely prevent decision. It is sometimes referred to as "talking a bill to death" or "talking out a bill" and is characterized as a form of obstruction in a legislature or other decision-making body.)

 The session was opened with the recitation from Holy Quran. After that the house offered Fateha on the demise of the mother of one of its members. Then Speaker Asad Qaiser who is also facing opposition’s no-confidence motion like prime minister, opened question answer session. But Opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif rose on his seat and asked for the floor. 

As soon as Shehbaz started his debate, the treasury members raised slogans of ‘Traitor, Traitor’, prompting him to give them a call for calm. 

In his speech, Shehbaz hailed the landmark verdict of the Supreme Court. He said that Thursday was a remarkable day in the annals of Pakistan’s history as the apex court declared NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri’s ruling regarding dismissal of the opposition’s no-confidence motion and subsequent dissolution of National Assembly by President Arif Alvi on the advice of Prime Minister Imran Khan illegal and unconstitutional while restoring the assembly and the federal cabinet. 

He said that the court buried the doctrine of necessity once for all. The PML-N leader said that he was going to inflict a defeat on the ‘selected prime minister’. 

He goaded the house and its custodian to forget about the past and stand for country’s constitution and law. 

On this, the speaker said that he had read the court order and he would conduct the house proceedings as per the court directions. But he said that the house would hold a debate on the threat letter by a foreign country for regime change. The speaker’s attitude clearly smacks of his mindset that he would allow for the use of filibuster. 

Sensing this, the Opposition leader chipped in saying the speaker could not disobey the court ruling which ordered to hold voting on the no-confidence motion today. If you delay voting, things would go far beyond repair, he warned the speaker

He asked the speaker that he should perform his duties as a true custodian of the house so that his name would be written with golden letters in history. 

Shehbaz reminded the speaker that he was bound to take up only no-confidence motion on agenda item and no other agenda items as per the orders of the court.

But the speaker while assuring Shehbaz that SC orders would be followed in letter and spirit, gave floor of the house to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi as part of his filibuster technique.

During entire length of Shehbaz’s speech, the treasury members kept raising slogans of ‘Beggars’ and ‘American slave’. 

Opposition’s right to move no-trust motion: Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the constitution gave the right to the opposition to table no-trust motion against the government in the National Assembly (NA), and it was incumbent upon the government to face it. However, he drew the House’s attention towards Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech, which he had made yesterday (Friday, April 8, 2022), and in which he said that although he was disappointed by the Supreme Court’s (SC) verdict, still he accepted it. 

Qureshi regretted that prior to decision of the SC, the opposition leaders namely Bilawal Bhutto, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and others belonging to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had launched a verbal assault on the court.   

FM said that he also wanted to express his views on the ‘foreign conspiracy’ behind the no-trust motion, whose evidence was that ‘threatening letter’ the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government had received. “The National Security Committee (NSC) had even issued a declaration after its meeting in which it expressed concern over the letter, and confirmed that there was a ‘foreign conspiracy’,” he reminded.  

Qureshi said the opposition parties had been demanding fresh elections for the last four years. “And now when President Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly to pave the way for elections, the opposition went to the Supreme Court,” he said, and added, “There is a background to the suo motu notice taken by the Supreme Court.” He further said he was sure that people stood by PTI in these testing times. 

Qureshi, reiterated for the sake of 'record' that the Opposition has the right to oppose but to resent it "is our (PTI and Imran Khan's) right." 

"Constitutional violations have been a part of our history," Qureshi added while beating around the bush and attempting to add credibility to Imran Khan's 'foreign conspiracy' claim. "Why did SC take suo motu cognizance on April 3?" Qureshi asked the Assembly and said, "Because when deputy speaker ruled his verdict and the Opposition rebuked, he did not intend to decline the vote session but said that new circumstances surfaced which needed to be probed."

Qureshi said the opposition had the right to table a no-trust motion against the prime minister, but said that defending it was his obligation. "We intend to fight it in constitutional, political and democratic manner," he asserted. He said that it was obligatory on them to respect the Constitution. "Pakistan’s history is full of constitutional violations," he said, adding that the doctrine of necessity should have been buried. "I am happy that Pakistan’s democracy has evolved," he added.

"Today is Saturday and the session has started at 10:30am. The court said the session will not be prorogued unless the process of Article 95 and rule 37 is concluded," he said. However, it is important to present the context under which the court directed to summon the session again. He said that the clock was turned back and the apex court unanimously dismissed the April 3 ruling.

The minister said that the prime minister went to the people by dissolving the assembly, adding that the opposition had been calling for early polls for close to four years. He reiterated that the government had accepted the court’s decision but questioned why the opposition parties went to the court and why the SC took suo motu notice. "The ruling the deputy speaker gave when he was chairing the session and he did not reject the constitutional process. He said a new situation had surfaced and that it should be probed in its light."

Qureshi added that the National Security Committee (NSC), one of the country’s top forums, had seen the cable and concluded that it was a sensitive matter. "The NSC took two decisions. First, they acknowledged there were interference in Pakistan’s internal matters and that a demarche must be issued," he said, adding that the Foreign Office followed these directives.

"The second was to immediately summon the Parliamentary committee on National Security and for the matter to be presented before elected representatives so that they can get to the bottom of things."

Resuming his speech after the long unexpected break, Qureshi said 

Qureshi suggests parliament’s in-camera session to discuss letter’s contents 

Foreign Minister (FM) Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Saturday that the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting had expressed its concern over the ‘threatening letter’ received by the government from a ‘grade-22 officer in Pakistan’s embassy in Washington, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.   

Speaking at the National Assembly (NA) session convened for voting on the no-confidence motion tabled by the opposition against the government, he said that it was clearly mentioned in the letter that if no-trust motion was passed, Pakistan would be forgiven; otherwise there would be devastating consequences. “If this is not a ‘threat’, then what else is a ‘threat?” he questioned.

He went on to add there was no doubt that efforts were being made for a ‘regime change’ in Pakistan, and history would never forgive those who had campaigned for the ouster of the present government.  “I am fasting today. And I vouch for the authenticity of the letter,” he added.  

He said he had heard the comments of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari about the ‘letter’. “The latter even denied its existence,” he deplored.    

Qureshi suggested to the House to call Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington to come and testify about the threat received from the USA in front of the members of the National Assembly (MNAs). “I propose convening an in-camera of the parliament to discuss the letter,” he said.  

He said for the PTI, Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri’s ruling was ‘final’. “And if that ruling is not deemed as final, it will lead to the opening of a Pandora Box,” he feared. 

Qureshi made it clear that Prime Minister Imran Khan had visited Russia after consultations with the country’s ‘establishment’. “But the US’s National Security Advisor warned Pakistan of the consequences if the prime minister went ahead with the tour,” he added.  

He stated emphatically that though Pakistan was small, but it was an independent country. 

The FM regretted that loyalties of the MNAs belonging to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) were purchased in lieu of huge sums of money. “The opposition parties resorted to horse trading to turn a majority into a minority,” he said, and asked whether horse trading was constitutional.    

He reminded the NA that horse trading was also done at the time of Senate elections. “Even videos of the lawmakers receiving briefcases of money had gone viral then,” he said, and added, “But the truth of the matter is that the case has been pending with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the last one year.” 

Qureshi challenged the opposition to go for early elections. “After all, political parties are not afraid of going to the people,” he asserted.  

Opposition strategy for smooth NA session

Ahead of National Assembly session, the joint opposition held its huddle of parliamentary party members and made a strategy regarding today’s assembly sitting, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

As many as 175 members attended the joint opposition meeting held at Committee Room No 2. Before this huddle, another consultative meeting of opposition’s parliamentary leaders was held at the chamber of Opposition leader in the Parliament. 

The participants chalked out a strategy regarding today’s crucial session of the lower house which will vote on the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan. 

PPP Co-Chairman Bilawal Bhutto and its Co-Chairman Asif Ali zardari also participated in the opposition’s parliamentary leaders’ meeting. 

It was decided in the meeting that no-confidence motion was a democratic and constitutional right of the opposition and the voting would take place at any cost today. There would be no compromise on it, the meeting vowed.

The members of the opposition conclave were also apprised of the method of choosing Leader of the House.

The opposition has already extended its request for the grant of 22 seats in the assembly secretariat.

Reporter Usman Khan