Opposition plans protest over detained lawmakers

ISLAMABAD: After defeat of its no-trust motion against the Senate chairman, the opposition is now pondering over a plan to register a strong protest against National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser for not issuing production orders for its arrested members.

A senior opposition member belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) told Dawn that they had been raising the issue for the past many days and in almost every session of the assembly in a polite way, but it seemed that now they would have to devise a strategy to forcefully pressurise the speaker to issue production orders for the arrested legislators.

The opposition members in their speeches and press talks have been alleging that the speaker is not issuing production orders because he is under pressure directly from Prime Minister Imran Khan.

During Thursday’s session, the issue was raised by PPP’s parliamentary leader Syed Naveed Qamar who said it was unprecedented in parliamentary history that six MNAs were behind bars at the same time.

Production orders for four MNAs issued but immediately withdrawn, claims PPP leader

Besides former president Asif Zardari, other opposition lawmakers under detention are former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Khawaja Saad Rafique and Rana Sanaullah and two independent MNAs from Waziristan, Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir.

The criticism of the speaker by Naveed Qamar for not issuing production orders had angered Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who was presiding over the sitting at the time. The deputy speaker even ordered that Mr Qamar’s mike be switched off.

When the deputy speaker was responding to Mr Qamar’s speech, a number of PPP women members, carrying placards inscribed with demand for issuance of production orders, gathered in front of his dais and started raising slogans.

Talking to Dawn on Sunday, Mr Qamar claimed that the speaker had issued production orders for four of the MNAs, including Mr Zardari, on Friday afternoon for Monday’s sitting, but the orders were later withheld for unknown reasons.

“The speaker has issued the production orders for four members, but I don’t know what happened afterwards, whether these orders were not dispatched to the authorities concerned or were withdrawn,” Mr Qamar said, adding that the “production orders were issued at 4pm and withdrawn at 5.45pm”.

Replying to a question, Mr Qamar said they had the option of “completely disrupting” the assembly proceedings which, he said, “is possible”, but they also wanted to raise other important issues concerning the general public, particularly the recent government decision to increase oil prices.

The PPP leader said there were so many issues like inflation and lack of press freedom in the country which the opposition wanted to discuss on the floor of the assembly, but it seemed that the government was not interested in running parliament. He said he had never witnessed such a bad situation even during the military regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf.

However, Mr Qamar said, the assembly was not functioning properly and on the other, the speaker had cancelled the meetings of the standing committees. He said as chairman of the committee on commerce, he had convened its meeting twice, but these were cancelled by the speaker. He alleged that the speaker had no powers or authority to cancel meetings of the house committees convened by their chairmen.

Meanwhile, PPP information secretary and MNA Dr Nafisa Shah, in a statement on Sunday, said the speaker was not issuing production orders due to “bad intention”, adding that the speaker was “insulting” his own office.

“The selected prime minister [Imran Khan] has no courage to face Asif Zardari,” she said.

Dr Shah said that production order was a right of the members and not a concession. She said the “selected government” did not want to see any debate taking place in parliament. She said that when the opposition raised any public issue, the government ministers started “misbe­having”.

Despite attempts, the speaker could not be contacted to seek his reaction to Mr Qamar’s allegation regarding cancellation of production orders.

The opposition is expected to once again raise the issue of the production orders on Monday (today) when the assembly will go into session after a two-day recess.

The National Assembly Secretariat has issued a 16-point agenda for the sitting.

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