ISLAMABAD: Though former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan – contrary to the established ‘parliamentary norms’ – still sits in his previous seat allocated to him as a senior minister next to the prime minister in National Assembly, he may lose the same in the coming days when Begum Kulsoom Nawaz reaches the assembly. The seat number 11 placed next to the prime minister’s chair in the National Assembly hall is traditionally allocated to a minister-cum-senior most leader of the ruling party. In previous assemblies, the seat was allocated to Ishaq Dar, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Syed Khurshid Shah in 1997, 2002 and 2008, respectively. The National Assembly Secretariat’s staff informed Daily Times that the assembly hall was divided into four benches – two each for treasury and opposition – whereas the first five rows left to the speaker were reserved only for the federal ministers, advisers and ministers of the state. “Whenever a minister leaves or is expelled from the federal cabinet, he also vacates his ministerial seat and goes back to the seats available for MNAs,” explained a senior officer of the Parliament House. “There is no hardcore rule to allocate seats in the assembly but these are some established norms and traditions, which tell us how and where to allocate a seat to any member or minister.” “The chief whip of any party recommends the seats for his party members and request to the speaker for a formal allocation. The speaker after checking availability of seat decides whether to allocate or not a specific seat to any member,” he further said. This scribe, to cross check the information, contacted former information minister Sherry Rehman, who had resigned from her office during the last tenure, and asked whether she had left the ministerial seat after resignation. She categorically replied, “No, I stopped using the minister’s chair after my resignation.” However, the situation is entirely different in the case of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who had decided not to become part of the new cabinet formed by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi following the disqualification of party chief Nawaz Sharif. Nisar is known as a hardcore ideologue within the party and is a seasoned parliamentarian, having an experience of almost 32 years. However, he is violating the parliamentary norms by retaining his same chair in the National Assembly, which had never been used by a simple MNA in the past. “We can’t change the seat of any member on our own except when the speaker directs us on the request of the chief whips of political parties,” a joint secretary of parliament said, adding, “Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan should show dignity by leaving the ministerial seat and sit with other MNAs.” “We don’t have enough vacant seats in the ministers’ rows. We are forced to allocate the seats to four advisers to the prime minister having a status of federal ministers in the last row,” he revealed. Former National Assembly speaker Chaudhry Ameer Hussain while talking to Daily Times said, “It is the sole discretion of the speaker to allocate seats but I don’t have any example when any member (without portfolio) was allocated a seat in the ministerial rows.” On the other hand, some parliamentarians even within the ruling party are whispering who will sit next to the prime minister when Begum Kulsoom Nawaz is elected to the National Assembly. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was contacted several times for comment but he was unavailable. However, when contacted Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Aftab Ahmed Shaikh, he declined to respond to the specific questions and only said, “Yes, these are the parliamentary norms which should be followed but we don’t have any written law in this regard.” Senior journalist and anchorperson Matiullah Jan, while commenting on the breach of parliamentary norms by the senior politician, said, “Chaudhry Nisar usually talks about morality, ethics and principles… [but] is not following well-established parliamentary norms.” “It is the right of senior most minister to sit next to the prime minister, which is being violated in the present scenario,” he added. Published in Daily Times, September 9th 2017.