Tempers ran high in the National Assembly on Tuesday over the controversial Kalabagh dam project whose Punjabi supporters won a rude shouting match in which even patriotism of one of its opponents was questioned.

And it seemed likely the shelved project to build a huge multi-purpose dam over the river Indus at Kalabagh in the Punjab province would continue to provoke tensions in the house during the remainder of a general debate on the new budget unless major parties decide to abstain from the highly divisive issue for the time being.

A poetess from Lahore, Bushra Rehman of the opposition PML-Q, ignited the fray by calling for reviving the shelved project, to cheers from other members of her own party and the rival PML-N from the Punjab province, who were countered with “no, no” slogans led by Pervez Khan of the government-allied ANP.

Then came a bombardment of shouts from well-attended PML-N and PML-Q benches that drowned the “no” slogans, which were also joined by some PPP members from Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa although the ruling party as a whole, whose attendance in the house at the time was sparse, did not appear to be interested to join the fray.

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