ISLAMABAD - The Senate Wednesday saw repeated interruptions and walkouts over civilian casualties in the US drone strikes. The unremitting stand-off between the treasury and opposition over the issue forced Chairman Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari to adjourn the House until Thursday.
The controversy started during the Question Hour when ANP Senator Zahid Khan sought clarification from the Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan about official figures unveiled by him regarding the number of casualties caused by the US drones.
The minister earlier told the House that more than 2,160 suspected terrorists have been killed in 317 drone strikes in the past five years while only 67 innocent civilians have died in these attacks.
All the opposition parties in the House supported Zahid Khan’s point of view, forcing the minister to give categorical assurance to the opposition members that he would recheck the figures given to him by the defence ministry and would inform the House accordingly. But this did not satisfy the opposition.
Niar got furious with PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani while he was contesting the official figures, which forced the entire opposition to stage walkout over what they described as un-parliamentary behaviour of the minister.
The treasury benches remained unmoved and showed indifference to opposition’s walkout but after almost one and half hour, Leader of House Raja Zafarul Haq along with Rialways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique went after the opposition members and brought them back.
The moment chairman resumed the proceedings, Raja Zafarul Haq with the permission of the chair regretted the verbal scuffle and assured the House that such situation would not recur. However, as soon as he concluded his remarks, Leader of Opposition Aitzaz Ahsen took the floor and informed the House that as per understanding with Leader of the House, they called off their protest on the condition that the interior minister would assure the House about furnishing of correct figures.
But Nisar did not pay heed to it and the chairman said that since the dispute has not been resolved, therefore he is adjourning the house to meet again on Thursday. When he was making this announcement, Leader of Opposition again stood up and said that opposition is again staging a walkout.
Later, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan told media persons outside the parliament that “today (Wednesday) is the blackest day in the parliamentary history of Pakistan”. “Terrorism is the biggest problem of Pakistan but how can the country run if we don’t know actual statistics about terrorism,” he said. He said the opposition walked out after Nisar replied rudely to Senator Zahid and Senator Rabbani. He said Senator Zahid asked the interior minister for the data on the killings in terror activities and Ch Nisar gave false figures.
“After the arguments of Raza Rabbani, the interior minister treated harshly and replied impolitely,” Aitzaz maintained. He said that opposition cautioned the chairman against the behaviour of the minister but Nisar instead of rectifying his behaviour, started hurling catcalls upon opposition. He said it had been settled with Leader of House Raja Zafarul Haq that Nisar should retract his statistics though there was no need to apologise.