The session was adjourned by Speaker Asad Qaiser without any major inroads made and will resume on Friday, April 23, at 11am. He called upon the government and the Opposition to sit down together in the meanwhile and formulate a unanimous resolution.
During today’s session, the resolution — a private member one — was presented in parliament by PTI MNA Amjad Ali Khan.
It centres around whether or not the French ambassador to Pakistan should be expelled after French President Emmanuel Macron defended the right of Charlie Hebdo magazine to republish blasphemous cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
– Condemns the publication of blasphemous caricatures by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo in September last year.
– Regrets the attitude of the French president encouraging the elements hurting the sentiments of hundreds of millions of Muslims in the name of freedom of expression.
– Calls for apprising all the European countries, especially France, of the gravity of this matter.
– Seeks detailed discussions with all the Muslim countries to take up issue jointly on international forums.
– Calls for the state to decide matters of international relations and “no person, group or party can exert unnecessary illegal pressure in this regard”.
– Calls for provincial governments to allocate specific sites for protests in all districts so that citizens’ daily life is not disrupted.
Amjad Ali Khan also requested the formation of a special parliamentary committee to discuss the French envoy’s expulsion.
Following the MNA’s request, the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan presented a separate resolution for the formation of the committee.
The resolution, after a voice vote, was declared by NA Speaker Asad Qaiser as approved by the parliament, amid loud chants of objection by the Opposition.
During today’s debate, PML-N stalwart and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi regretted that the government called an emergency session of the National Assembly (it was originally set to take place on April 22) and did not speak to the Opposition about its intention to do so.
“The way to go about it is that you speak to the Opposition. I will say again that there is no two ways about the sanctity of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). [But] this resolution is unfortunately insufficient.
He requested that the Opposition be given an hour so they can review the resolution.
“You have presented the resolution. We will debate and include the additional provisions it should have and put them before you, so that the House passes an agreed upon resolution,” Abbasi said.
He also said that the “whole House” should be considered the committee to debate the French envoy’s expulsion. “There is no need for a special committee,” he said, adding: “It should be a committee of the whole House.”
Abbasi added that for the past three years, parliament had been left in a crippled state and was turned into a den where nothing but abuses are hurled, remarks which were ordered expunged by the speaker.
Later, in an unfortunate turn of events, a heated exchange took place between Abbasi and the speaker. It followed briefly after the resolution for the formation of a committee was declared accepted by the speaker.
It cannot be concretely said what sparked Abbasi’s anger.
Abbasi was seen in footage from the session approaching the speaker and saying: “You are making it […] controversial. Have you no shame?”
“Hold your tongue,” said the speaker in response. “You always speak such things and behave in such a manner.”
As things intensified, Abbasi added: “I will take off my shoe and hit you.”
“I too will do such a thing then. Please stay within your limits,” the speaker said to Abbasi, asking him to return to his seat.
Meanwhile, Maulana Asad Mehmood of JUI-F regretted that the “Opposition was not taken into confidence” over the resolution.
“You wanted to call an emergency session but you did not even bother to take the Opposition into confidence,” Mehmood said.
Addressing Speaker Asad Qaiser, he said: “You are not the government’s speaker, you are the speaker of the entire parliament.”
“A speaker’s conduct must be impartial,” he said.
He called for the government to work with the Opposition to bring forth a joint resolution.
The Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony Noor-ul-Haq Qadri also addressed the parliament, saying that there is “history behind the resolution”.
He said the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) which had asked the government to table the resolution in parliament, “are citizens of Pakistan”.
Qadri said that many religious parties had indicated their support for the banned outfit.
Opposition members continued to chant loudly, objecting to the minister’s address.
The minister in his address also mentioned the Model Town incident in which protesters of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek were killed.
He went on to speak of the Faizabad sit-in by the TLP. “When 20 people died in that incident, where were you then?” he asked the PML-N, who were in power at the time.
Ahsan Iqbal objected to the resolution being presented by a private member and over the prime minister’s absence from parliament.
“All members of the parliament know that a private member resolution is non-official business,” he said.
“Where is the prime minister?” Iqbal asked. “We are debating such an important matter and the prime minister is busy with something else,” he said.
“Neither did the prime minister come, nor did any minister have the guts to present this resolution.”
He demanded that Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed or Minister for Religious Affairs Noor-ul-Haq Qadri present the resolution to make it official business of the parliament.
Iqbal also called for the two to give statements in the parliament regarding the events that had transpired the past week.
The PML-N leader furthermore said that the prime minister must be made obligated to sit in the parliament and take part in proceedings.
Iqbal said that the agreement which took place with TLP must be discussed in parliament.
“We wish to know what the state’s stance is in this matter. So you must take into confidence all of us.”
The PML-N leader called for the session to be adjourned and for the government and Opposition to sit down and hold talks so a resolution that has the consent of both the government and the opposition can be brought to the parliament.