Boycott over farmers’ issue disrupts Senate


Boycott over farmers’ issue disrupts Senate ISLAMABAD: The opposition boycotted the Senate session on Wednesday to protest against alleged manhandling of Pakistan Peoples Party leaders and protesting farmers by police in Lahore and disrupted the proceedings by pointing out lack of quorum.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani adjourned the session till Thursday afternoon without taking up any of the agenda items, except the question hour, when the government failed to ensure presence of 26 senators, a minimum requirement for completing quorum in the 104-member upper house.

Soon after the question hour, Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan took the floor. Speaking on a point of order, he said that the Punjab government had created hurdles in the way of his counterpart in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah while he was going to express solidarity with the protesting farmers in Lahore.

Hundreds of growers have been protesting against “anti-farmer policies” of the government outside the Punjab Assembly by staging a sit-in under the banner of the Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) for the past two days. The PKI leaders claim that police have launched a crackdown on the protesting farmers and detained over 600 of them in different areas of Punjab.

PPP leaders, including Mr Shah, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nazar Gondal and Manzoor Wattoo, were going to address the participants of the sit-in when they were stopped by police near the venue. The party workers accompanying the PPP leaders reportedly removed the barriers after a brief exchange of arguments with policemen and the leaders managed to reach the venue and address the protesting farmers.

Referring to the incident, Mr Ahsan questioned police behaviour with Khurshid Shah, saying that he was neither carrying any weapon nor going to attack anyone.

He accused the Punjab government of resorting to violence against the protesting farmers and arresting hundreds of them.

The PPP leader said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had announced a Rs341 billion “Kissan Package” for poor farmers. Later, when the International Monetary Fund raised an objection to it, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told the IMF that the government would release only Rs30bn for the package.

He said that poor farmers needed relief because they were facing hardship and not getting better price for their products.

Mr Ahsan said that the opposition had decided to boycott the proceedings to register its protest against the Punjab government’s act of stopping Mr Shah and detaining the farmers and led the boycott.

The Senate chairman sent Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq to bring back the opposition members. But he returned to the house saying that they had refused to come back and participate in the proceedings.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Aftab Shaikh said that the government would provide protection to Khurshid Shah. He said that the farmers had been stopped by police because of the Lahore High Court’s decision to ban protest on The Mall.

The minister was still speaking when PPP’s Sherry Rehman returned to the house only to point out lack of quorum.

After finding no quorum, the chairman suspended the proceedings for 30 minutes. However, when the members assembled after the break, the house still lacked quorum, forcing the chairman to adjourn the proceedings.

Earlier in the day, PPP members Ijaz Jhakrani and Ayaz Soomro, during the National Assembly session, also raised the issue of alleged manhandling of Mr Shah and the protesting farmers by police.


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