Bill for open ballot in Senate elections presented in parliament amid noisy session

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ISLAMABAD:A bill to bring the 26th amendment to the Constitution, to pave the way for open balloting in Senate elections, was presented on Wednesday amid a noisy National Assembly session.The members of parliament belonging to the Opposition benches protested loudly, in a bid to prevent Minister for Law Farogh Naseem from reading out the contents of the bill.Speaker Asad Qaiser eventually called for a recess when assembly proceedings became difficult to continue, after which the session was conducted by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri.Amid the ruckus, PML-N Secretary-General Ahsan Iqbal accused the speaker of being biased and not letting the Opposition speak. He said a speaker is not supposed to favour any party.”It seems the Opposition has been labelled pariahs in the parliament,” he remarked.Iqbal also accused the National Accountability Bureau of gunning for “revenge” against the Opposition, saying prominent members are all in jail.”Democracy does not work like you are angels and the Opposition is the devil,” he said.He said that the session has been going on for 13 days, but proceedings only lasted 10 hours in total.The PML-N leader said that in the past, the Opposition would speak for two hours at a stretch even. “If you will not let us speak here, then we will speak up out on the streets and alleyways.”He said the Opposition had moved a call attention motion against the hike in petrol prices brought in five times by the government “but we were not allowed to speak”.Iqbal said that “at present, the prices of flour, sugar and essential commodities are skyrocketing”. He also spoke of aviation industry “coming to a standstill” and “lies told in the House of the licenses of 850 pilots being fake”.”Our airline was barred by US and Europe […] Pakistan Steel Mills employees are being fired,” he said, in further criticism of the government.His remarks kept prompting the Opposition members to chant loudly in support, prompting the speaker to repeatedly urge them to remain silent.The Opposition’s loud protests gained further momentum during Minister for Communications and Postal Services Murad Saeed’s address.”The Opposition is not allowing me to speak because they know what I have to say,” Saeed said.”Just as their leaders are thieves, so are these people,” he said.

The minister said that the Opposition claimed the government would be forced to leave after January 31. “Well we are sitting here today,” he remarked.Saeed said the government wants open ballot in Senate, but the Opposition wants “Changa Manga politics”.The minister, referring to the PML-N, said: “Their leader is sitting in London and poisoning people’s ears against the state.” Referring to the ongoing protest by Steel Mills workers as the asset is set to be privatised, said that had it been performing well then “their foreign minister would not have offered PIA along with Steel Mills for free”.Saeed was at one point prompted by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who had resumed the session after the recess, to focus his speech on the bill being presented.

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