ISLAMABAD: The opposition PML-N seemed stepping back in the National Assembly on Thursday from suggestions for mid-term elections that had angered Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani but his ally MQM stuck to a boycott of the house for the second day running, leaving a gaping hole in the government’s southern flank.
Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan denied that his party wanted mid-term elections or to destabilise the PPP-led coalition government, which he, however, severely criticised for its alleged failure to tackle corruption and price hike and for what he called its “anti-people policies”.
The prime minister, in a speech to the assembly on Tuesday, had dismissed what he called a talk of mid-term elections or any possibility of martial law that could force such a course after Chaudhry Nisar told reporters a day before that he was hearing “voices coming from streets” to get rid of the present government and that mid-term elections could be an option, and a call inside the house by a lower-ranking PML member before Mr Gilani spoke that “mid-term elections must be held next year”.
“We are not talking of mid-term elections, we are not talking of any martial law,” the opposition leader said while speaking on a point of order on Thursday.
Though he vowed his party would block every government move to “marginalise the parliamentary mode of governance”, he said: “We don’t want to destabilise you. People have given you the right to govern.”
While Chaudhry Nisar’s assertions seemed aimed at dispelling some latest tension between the government and the largest opposition party due to remarks about mid-term elections, the government suffered an embarrassment as the 25-member MQM — one of its key allies — did not return to the house after its Wednesday’s announcement of a boycott that it said would continue until the latest increases in petroleum prices were withdrawn.
There seemed little chances of this demand being met immediately, although the house has admitted four opposition adjournment motions for a debate on oil prices and the general price hike.
The day saw another walkout on Thursday by the opposition PML-Q to protest against the higher oil prices, which the party’s parliamentary leader Faisal Saleh Hayat said should have been approved by the house.
Chaudhry Nisar, in his speech, disputed the prime minister’s assertion in some of his recent statements that his government had implemented 80 per cent of the landmark Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed by assassinated PPP leader Benazir Bhutto and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif in 2006 and said the implementation was “not even 70 per cent” and could be as low as “20 to 25 per cent”.
PPP chief whip Khurshid Ahmed Shah invited his anger when in a rejoinder to the opposition leader he said that “we will be thankful to them” if the PML-N could implement as much of the CoD in the Punjab province that it rules with PPP as a coalition partner as done by federal government.
Chaudhry Nisar challenged the PPP to withdraw from the Punjab government if it was dissatisfied in the same way as the PML-N had quit the PPP’s federal government after six months of association.
But despite such hot exchanges, the government did not seem displeased with the PML-N stance on the day, with Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Babar Awan saying that there was “difference in perception but not of thinking” as he assured the house of an early presentation of the stalled new accountability law.
Before adjourning until 10am on Friday, the house quickly passed three bills — seeking to further amend the State Bank of Pakistan Act of 1956 to facilitate the central bank’s working in conformity with the present-day international practices, reorganisation and conversion of the Industrial Development Bank of Pakistan into a public limited company, and constitution of a Pakistan Institute of Fashion and Design to be based in Lahore.