Opposition, govt grill each other over accountability in heated NA session

Source:  Tribune Published in Politics on Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan and the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah on Wednesday addressed the parliament as the joint opposition ended their boycott.

The PTI chief, who spoke after Khursheed Shah, said Pakistan may have began as a democratic nation but has ended up with a monarchy.

“In a democracy, it is the government’s job to make laws and govern. On the other hand, it is the opposition’s job to make sure the ruling party is accountable at all costs,” said Khan, while adding that the opposition is only strengthening democracy by demanding action.

The PTI chief went on to add that parliament had given every member the right to the criticise. “The institution would have no value if it weren’t for this right,” he added.

Talking about allegations being hurled against him, the PTI chief said the PML-N government has done so while not launching an official probe against him.

Imran said the government chose to attack Shaukat Khanum Hospital when his party began questioning the government over the Panama leaks.

“The prime minister is damaging a hospital which gives the poor the same standard of treatment as the rich. The government is ready to destroy Pakistan’s biggest charity hospital with these allegations,” said Imran.

The PTI chief went on to add that Pakistan should learn from foreign leaders who are taking action against corrupt officials. “It is not the prime minister’s job to give us details on how wealthy he has been all his life, but to tell us why his family is being named in the Panama papers,” he said.

Imran went on to clarify his financials saying he had bought a flat in London in 1983 with money he had earned through county cricket.

“Even the prime minister knew about my flat. The premier asked me what a penthouse is. I had told him that it was the house on the top floor of the apartment building,” he quipped.

Quoting IMF head Christine Lagarde, the PTI chief said it is because of corruption that there is no investment in Pakistan. “There is flight of capital when there’s corruption, money goes to offshore companies,” he said.

“Pakistan is the lowest on Human Development Index, yet instead of spending money on people, the government is spending it on mega projects,” he added.

Concluding his address, Imran warned if their questions are not answered, his party will take it to the streets. “If PM doesn’t answer all questions properly, then I can’t speak for others but it will be my democratic right and PTI’s right to come out on the streets to protest.”

Earlier, Khursheed Shah said Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1948 paid Rs4,400 in taxes, whereas, in 1993, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif paid only Rs2,700 in taxes.

Addressing the NA, the opposition leader drew a comparison between Quaid-e-Azam and PM Nawaz, stating that the Panama Leaks issue has just begun.

Contradicting PM Nawaz’s claim regarding the history of his family business, and that the premier’s father had left him enough money to buy properties in London, Khursheed Shah said, “Pm Nawaz’s family was never among the 22 rich families as he said.”

He further said that, “PM Nawaz mentioned Gulf Steel for the first time during his address on Monday. We didn’t know anything about it prior to his address.”

Govt takes a jibe at opposition

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif rose to the defence the government. “Panama Papers includes names of several people other than politicians, but politicians have started a blame game,” he said.

Taking a jibe at Imran Khan, the defence minister said the PTI chief has put in a lot of effort for the development of Shaulat Khanum, but he is also responsible for the losses it suffered. “Why does Imran Khan keep bringing up Shaukat Khanum, we agree he put in a lot of effort, but the most amount of losses faced by the hospital were also because of him.” Responding to Imran’s comment of govt damaging the charity hospital through its allegations, Asif clarified, “We have harmed the hospital’s reputation nor ever will.”

Expressing disbelief that Imran hid his offshore wealth for one month, Asif said, “Offshore companies are offshore companies regardless of where they are located.”

“Imran Khan can’t hide from accountability, if the money came into Pakistan then he has to show every single account clearly,” he added.

Speaking in defence of the premier, Asif said, “It was the citizens of the country who elected Nawaz as prime minister for the third and Shahbaz Sharif as provincial chief minister numerous times.

“Opposition is afraid that they will be politically written off if Nawaz becomes the prime minister again in 2018,” Asif stated.

Further referring to the current state of politics in the country, Asif said, “Today’s politics has turned dirty and it must be resolved within the house before it destroys our institutions.”

“We must make sure that our personal differences don’t make us drift apart to such an extent that our future generations have to bear the consequences.”

NA session continues as opposition ends boycott

The opposition announced an end to its boycott of the upper and lower house of parliament on Tuesday after an hours-long meeting to thrash out a future strategy against the government over the Panamagate scandal.

“We don’t intend defame Pakistan or prove the premier as a corrupt leader, but PM Nawaz should have been present in today’s session to answer our questions,” Shah said.

Referring to the opposition’s reservations over Premier Nawaz’s speech and his assets, Shah said that the premier’s wealth was never in question, however his family gave contradictory statements regarding his wealth.

“PM Nawaz owns 12 companies but has paid Rs12 billion only, over a period of 23 years,” he added.

The opposition had started boycotting proceedings, calling upon Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to come to parliament and clarify his position over his family’s offshore businesses.

Even after Nawaz addressed the National Assembly on Monday, opposition lawmakers walked out for the sixth consecutive day, saying they had put forward seven questions but the prime minister’s speech engendered 70.

In a surprise move similar to Monday’s walkout, the opposition leader announced the protesting parties were ending their boycott since the premier had spoken to parliament.

“The prime minister had said he was not answerable to parliament and that was why we forced him to come to the house,” Shah told journalists after the opposition’s meeting at the Parliament House.

“Though he [Nawaz] did not answer the questions we had asked, we are still ending the boycott [of both houses],” he said. “Why should we stay away as parliament is our forum?”

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