PML-N aborts anti-militants call in National Assembly
By: Raja Asghar
ISLAMABAD: Amid confusing signals over the possibility of a military operation against Taliban bases in North Waziristan in the wake of the shooting of Swat’s schoolgirl activist Malala Yosufzai, the Pakistan Muslim League-N aborted on Tuesday a new government-backed resolution in the National Assembly calling for action against militants.
But before fiery and passionate exchanges on the move, the house saw a period of comparative cordiality when the PML-N conceded to the deletion of a single word from a government bill seeking the establishment of a new drug regulatory authority, leading to its unanimous adoption, after government support enabled a similar passage of a PML-N member’s private bill seeking to abolish discretionary quotas in public sector housing schemes in Islamabad.
As the PPP-led coalition failed to achieve a house consensus on the resolution which a source said only called for “practical measures” against militants in general terms in reaction to the Oct 9 shooting claimed by Taliban, the move was given up even without the draft being moved or read out before the house was prorogued after a 12-day session.
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the leader of opposition in the house, who took the floor twice over the issue, repeatedly accused the government of not implementing most of the previous unanimous parliamentary resolutions and said the new one was being brought as a precursor to a military operation in Waziristan while Swat’s fugitive Taliban leader Maulvi Fazlullah, who is generally considered as the mastermind of the Mingora attack, was living in Afghanistan.
But PPP chief whip and Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Ahmed Shah rejected the charges, noting that there was no mention of Waziristan in the resolution, and offered the PML-N to make any changes in the draft, or move one of their own.
But the PML-N was in no mood to buy the idea as it appeared getting closer to an anti-operation stance taken by the Defence of Pakistan Council of hard-line rightwing groups and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf.
And the ruling coalition also was hesitant to move a resolution without a consensus of all parties in parliament, amid reports of apparent dithering even by military commanders after initial expressions of a resolve to act in concert with an international outcry against the attack.
TRADE-OFF ON BILLS: Earlier, in an apparent trade-off in legislative business, the government backed PML-N member Zahid Hamid’s four-clause bill providing for the abolition of discretionary quotas in public sector housing schemes in the capital, paving the way for its unanimous passage, before Mr Hamid withdrew his opposition to an MQM member’s amendment for the deletion of the world “only” from a clause of the government’s Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan Bill.
The government bill of 42 clauses and six schedules had been deferred on Monday midway through voting on its clauses in the second reading when the PML-N deliberately broke the quorum by asking several of its back-benchers to sneak out of the house before the chair ordered a count on the request of a party member after MQM’s S.A. Iqbal Qadri refused to withdraw his amendment to the clause under which the chief executive officer or a director of the new Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan must be a Pakistani citizen.
PML-N objectors argued that the deletion of the word “only” from the clause – “no person shall be appointed as the CEO or director of the authority unless he is a citizen of Pakistan only” — would pave the way for the induction of Pakistanis with dual nationality who they thought could serve the interests of multinational pharmaceutical companies working in the country.