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Tired of Hearing Leader Criticized, Pakistani Lawmaker Starts Banning Words

After nearly a year of hearing that phrase brandished during debates in the National Assembly, the deputy speaker of the body, Qasim Khan Suri, had evidently had enough. Declaring that it was an insult to call Mr. Khan, his party chief, a “selected” leader, he banned the phrase outright during the session on Sunday.

“This is a house of elected representatives!” he thundered. “No one will use this expression from now on!”

He was wrong, of course. It didn’t take long at all on Monday for someone to push the issue: Marriyum Aurangzeb, an opposition lawmaker, was soon reprimanded by Mr. Suri for continuing to describe Mr. Khan as “selected.” Afterward, she took a different tack, referring to the prime minister as “handpicked.”

Whether they are defying the order, digging into the thesaurus, or defending the ban as proper, lawmakers are now making the order itself the focus of debate.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, is questioning whether it is possible for one official to ban words in Parliament at all. Mr. Zardari is the lawmaker most widely credited with first using the phrase to describe Mr. Khan last year, and it has picked up resonance as Mr. Khan and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or P.T.I., have struggled.

“Because of the prime minister’s ego, you have banned this word,” Mr. Zardari said on Monday, calling the move censorship. “What kind of freedom is this that members of National Assembly cannot express themselves on the floor of the house?”

Another opposition lawmaker, Hina Parvez Butt, filed a resolution in the Punjab provincial assembly condemning the deputy speaker’s move.

Mr. Khan became the prime minister last year after running a campaign rooted in fighting corruption and criticizing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Mr. Sharif was ejected from his post by the Supreme Court on corruption accusations and then was sentenced to prison just two weeks before the election, in July.

Mr. Sharif and other political leaders have accused the military of denying them a level playing field in those elections, paving the way for Mr. Khan’s win. Some members of Mr. Sharif’s party accused the military of pressuring them to change parties.

The military, which remains popular among many Pakistanis, continues to reject the accusations of meddling in politics. And the prime minister’s supporters insist that his party won elections on its own power.

Aliya Hamza Malik, a lawmaker with P.T.I., said in an interview that calling Mr. Khan “selected” was unfair and unjustified.

“Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf vote bank increased from 7.6 million votes in 2013 general elections to 16.8 million votes in last year’s elections,” Ms. Malik said, referring to her party. “By using this expression, the opposition is discrediting not only the Parliament but also the people of Pakistan.”

Source: NYT > World

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