Speaker disallows debate on Jang Group

By Mariana Baabar

ISLAMABAD: In a pre-planned move to sabotage the attempts made by the opposition to raise the issue of victimisation against the Jang Group in the National Assembly, Speaker Illahi Bakhsh Soomro on Monday allowed a lengthy debate against the MQM chief Altaf Hussain.

As soon as the question-hour finished, MQM's Babar Ghauri and ANP's Asfandyar Wali Khan waved the announcements that had appeared in these two newspapers on Monday and asked the speaker that they wanted to speak on these latest attempts by the government to browbeat the media.

"The government is harassing The News and Jang once again. Attempts are being made to muzzle the independent media. Different reasons are being given to stifle these publications.How can you take away the rights of these newspapers?" he questioned. However, the speaker refused to allow the MQM member or any other from the opposition benches to either raise or discuss the issue, saying he was not going to run the House on a point of order.

Ironically, at the time when the opposition was being denied an opportunity to speak on a point of order, PML's Khawaja Asif, Chairman Privitisation Commission, caught the eye of the chair and said that he wanted to speak on a point of order. Surprisingly, the speaker allowed Asif to indulge in a lengthy tirade against MQM chief Altaf Hussain in spite of loud agitation by the MQM members who rose to protest loudly.

In fact, so large-hearted was the speaker that unlike the past when he used to strictly discourage points of order, he not only allowed Asif to have the floor on a point of order for five minutes but also allowed MQM leader Sheikh Liaquat to speak on a point of order for five minutes. In complete negation of parliamentary practices where a person who is not present cannot be discussed, the speaker allowed the debate on MQM chief Altaf Hussain.

The speaker to a large extent was supported by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Yasin Wattoo who, when asked by the chair if Asif should be allowed to speak, replied: "Yes, let Asif finish what he is saying." When Asif started to really hit out at the MQM, Petroleum Minister Chaudhry Nisar, who is known to have a soft corner for the MQM, left his seat to sit in the back.

However, minutes after a heated debate between Asif and the MQM, the PML member was seen enjoying tea in the cafeteria with two MQM members whom he had invited and was explaining something to them. A PML member confided to 'The News' on condition of anonymity: "All that happened in the National Assembly was 'noora kushti'. It had been pre-planned that Khawaja Asif would provoke the MQM by slamming Altaf Hussain and attention would be diverted from the opposition members' attempts to raise the issue of 'The News' and 'Jang'."

He added: "Have you ever seen the speaker allowing so much time on points of order? Specially, when Altaf Hussain is absent from the House, where he is being criticised? Asif knew very well that if he started to attack Altaf Hussain, the MQM were bound to react very strongly and defend their leader. Why did the speaker out-of-the-blue suddenly allow a debate on Altaf Hussain? Nothing new has happened."

When approached, Khawaja Asif simply said: "I am a political animal." ANP's Asfandyar Wali told 'The News': "We had all come prepared to raise the issue of victimisation against The News and Jang groups but all our attempts were sabotaged and the speaker did not allow us time." Earlier, Khawaja Asif attacked Altaf Hussain, saying he had hidden himself away in London and was neither interested in a Pakistani passport or visits to this country.

Amidst loud thumping from the treasury benches, Asif continued: "How does he call himself a Quaid while leaving his workers behind? Previously, the Urdu-speaking Mohajirs had names like Dehlvi, Abdali but today they are called 'commando', 'shopper', 'nak kata'. What kind of names are these?" He added: "I can give you the names of those MQM members who had asked us for money. All the politics of MQM evolves around 'bhatta' and nothing else. These MQM members should leave the party and come and sit with us."

Sheikh Liaquat after being given the floor asserted: "Yes Altaf Hussain stays abroad. Did Khomeini not live abroad in exile? Our leader is for transferring power to the people. We are under pressure and being sidelined everywhere." He went on to say: "Yes we are 'bhatta khor'. We take 'chanda' for the poor. I have been in the Muslim League and I know how money is collected and given to the 'waderas'. Mr speaker how did you allow a debate against a person who is not present in this house?"

The News International Pakistan