Rumpus in parliament

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Pandemonium broke out in the lower house of parliament when government and opposition lawmakers traded punches after opposition MNAs castigated Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for making contradictory statements about his family members’ businesses and London properties.The rumpus began when Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah took the floor on a point of order and urged the National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq to take up the privilege motion moved jointly by the PPP and PTI against the PM before all else. Shah’s address was followed by PTI’s parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s charged speech in which he pressed the speaker to take up opposition’s privilege motion against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his allegedly contradictory statements on the Panama Papers issue.During Qureshi’s scathing criticism of the PM, members from both the treasury and opposition benches also shouted slogans against each other. But the trading of barbs soon degenerated into an all-out brawl when Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi rushed towards Qureshi’s seat in an aggressive manner. The body language of Abbasi alarmed and enraged the PTI members, who rose from their seats and headed towards him. In the exchange, PTI’s Shehryar Afridi received a punch from the ruling PML-N’s MNA Moeen Wattoo. The scuffle was so intense that sergeants at arms were called in to intervene. However, even the sergeants could not handle the situation and other NA staffers deputed to assist the MNAs in the house had to step in to make a human chain, separating the treasury and opposition benches.After the incident, the speaker suspended the proceedings for some time while the entire opposition left the house in protest and did not return. Later, the house transacted most of the agenda during the remaining proceedings and witnessed the passage of two bills. Khursheed Shah earlier said the PM in his address on the floor of the house had said he would provide documents when required about the money trail of his family’s London properties.However, he said, the premier told the Supreme Court hearing the Panamagate case that he enjoyed immunity as an MNA and that his parliamentary speech could not be used as evidence in the court. He recalled that at first there was a letter from a Qatari prince. This letter was followed by another one to establish the money trail of the ruling family. Responding to Shah, the speaker said he had forwarded the privilege motion to his secretariat for reconsideration and would seek legal opinion on it as well, if needed. The parliament is supreme institution and all political parties should protect its sanctity. The scuffle between government and PTI’s members is a worst episode in the parliamentary history of Pakistan. Speaker should ensure the protection of its sanctity and should take stern action against those who were responsible for the ugly picture. It has sent wrong message to abroad and also defame democracy in the country. All political parties should use parliament for the welfare of the people and progress and prosperity of the country and should avoid advancing their vested interests. Opposition parties should avoid such negative politics and should focus in public issues to stay relevant in the politics. It is the responsibility of the government to take steps for the smooth functioning of parliament and strengthening of nascent democratic process in the country.

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