Pakistani National Assembly Brawl Reflects Government Tensions

Pakistan Parliament House Members of two Pakistani political parties, Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice) and the Muslim League, erupted in a physical brawl in the National Assembly on January 26. The clash broke out when National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of the Muslim League refused to allow Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Deputy Parliamentary Leader, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, to submit a privilege motion.

A privilege motion is generally raised by a National Assembly member regarding a violation of their privileges in the Assembly. Qureshi filed his motion against the Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, for lying to the National Assembly about the Panama Papers.

Immediately following Sadiq’s refusal of Qureshi’s request, several other Tehreek-e-Insaf members began to chant vulgar statements against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is also the President of the Muslim League. Members of the Muslim League confronted Qureshi about the rude gesture and an altercation broke out. This argument became violent once Tehreek-e-Insaf members accused Mian Abdul Mannan, another member of Muslim League, of making lewd gestures to female members of Tehreek-e-Insaf. The clash lasted for about ten minutes before other members of the National Assembly managed to break it up.

The Muslim League is by far the largest political party in the National Assembly, controlling 189 of the 342 seats (55.43 percent), while Tehreek-e-Insaf controls 33 seats (9.68 percent), making it the third-largest party. Following Prime Minister Sharif’s links to illegal offshore assets in the Panama Papers, opposition to the Muslim League has quickly intensified.

Tehreek-e-Insaf’s leader, Imran Khan, was among those who petitioned the Pakistani Supreme Court to implicate Nawaz Sharif on the grounds of corruption related to his alleged assets. This fight is one of the latest yet most egregious in a conflict that threatens to further undermine the stability of the Pakistani government.