Wednesday Jun 30, 2021
ISLAMABAD: PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Wednesday responded to a challenge by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi during a noisy session of the National Assembly.
After severely criticising the government over the provisions of budget 2021-22 and condemning the legislative process conducted on Tuesday, the PPP chairperson left the House after his speech.
"He spoke a lot about [parliamentariy] procedures; I would also like to speak on procedures a bit," said a passionate FM Qureshi after Bilawal and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had spoken.
"Where did he go after making his speech? I want him to return," he added.
"I would like to ask Bilawal Bhutto to return to his seat; come back to the field and listen to us now," the foreign minister stated.
The Opposition benches in the National Assembly broke into huge applause when the PPP chairperson, with another lawmaker by his side, returned to his seat.
The foreign minister spoke briefly but after immense criticism from the Opposition benches, asked the speaker to let a JUI-F MNA speak instead, and sat down.
Later, a war of words erupted between the two leaders when Bhutto took a dig at the foreign minister.
"I would like to request the prime minister to order the ISI to tape Shah Mahmood Qureshi's phone," taunted Bhutto. "When he used to be our foreign minister, he ran a campaign around the world to make him the prime minister, instead of Yousaf Raza Gillani," he added.
"That is why we sacked him from the post of foreign minister," added the PPP leader.
The foreign minister responded to the PPP leader's accusations, telling him that he also knew Bhutto "since he was a little kid".
He hit back at the PPP chairperson by referring to him as a "kid".
"I know you since you were a kid and I also knew your parents as well," he added.
Speaking after Bhutto concluded his speech, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said he supported everything said by the PPP chairperson.
Abbasi, like Bhutto, turned his guns on Speaker Asad Qaiser, criticising him for not honouring agreements with Opposition members.
"We sit with you and reach agreements time and again but no attention is paid towards them," he complained.
The PML-N leader said that as per the rules of the House, whenever a vote is cast or recorded, it should be recounted as well.
Speaking about incarcerated MNAs Khursheed Shah and Ali Wazir Khan, Abbasi said they also had the right to sit in parliamentary proceedings.
"Khursheed Shah is one of the oldest members of this House," he said. "Didn't you see Khursheed Shah's chair vacant for the past two years?" he added.
The former prime minister told the speaker that the National Assembly "runs according to the rules, not your wishes".
As the PML-N leader spoke, members of the treasury benches started shouting slogans and jeering him. Abbasi said PM Imran Khan will not be allowed to speak if the treasury benches prevented the leader of the Opposition from speaking as well.
"If the leader of Opposition cannot speak here, the leader of the House will not be able to [speak] as well," he added.
During his speech in the Parliament today, the PPP chairperson lashed out at the government's legislative process, accusing it of "rigging".
"We think that this budget session has become a source of embarrassment for every Pakistani," he said. "Mr Speaker, I complain to you that you have snatched our rights from us," added Bhutto.
Bhutto told NA Speaker Asad Qaiser that the Opposition lawmakers expected him to keep the "sanctity of the chair" and act neutrally.
He said if "rigging" had not been carried out yesterday when the finance bill was being approved, the government would not have been able to obtain 172 votes.
Bhutto said the Opposition members had more rights than merely reading out their amendments to the bill.
"We have the right to be heard also," he said. "If our right to vote is not protected then what will become of the protection of the right of ordinary Pakistanis?" he asked.
Bhutto said the Opposition asked for a recount of the votes but the speaker did not oblige him. He said even Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri kept taking time and did not oblige the Opposition.
However, Bilawal admitted that the Opposition members were also to blame for their poor attendance during the session.
The PPP chairperson accused the speaker of not protecting the rights of the Opposition members, adding that "the whole nation saw that if you did not rig [the parliamentary process] then you wouldn't have received 172 votes".
Taking a dig at Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, Bhutto said that an "unelected member" kept rejecting the Opposition's amendments.
"According to Rule 276, if there is a voice vote challenge, you have to count it," said Bhutto.
Bhutto told the speaker that he challenged the vote during the last phase of the legislation but "you did not listen to me".
"What else is it, if not rigging?" the PPP leader asked before concluding his speech, leaving and then returning when the foreign minister challenged him to come back.
The government had been able to pass the budget with a majority when many PML-N members were absent from the House.
The PPP had attended yesterday's session with 54 of its lawmakers. Two had not attended the session as they had contracted coronavirus.
PM Imran Khan, FM Qureshi, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin and other notable ministers were also present during yesterday's session.
According to the state-run APP, 240 lawmakers had participated in the debate on the federal budget.
The motion was passed with majority vote which led to the passage of Finance Bill, 2021 after clause by clause reading as well as voice voting along with amendments.