The BackBencher: Fine dining comes to the Sindh Assembly

Published: June 8, 2012

Speaker Nisar Khuhro was all smiles at the cafeteria being reopened after three years. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

There was also a request for a prayer by MPA Bachal Shah for the Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz’s Muzaffar Bhutto. PHOTO: EXPRESS/MOHAMMAD AZEEM PThe MQM legislators said that ‘hidden hands’ in the government were supporting suspects of the Lyari gang war. HOTO: EXPRESS/MOHAMMAD AZEEM Speaker Nisar Khuhro was all smiles at the cafeteria being reopened after three years. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS
KARACHI: 

There’s nothing like some fried, carb-heavy snacks and the soothing trickle of a fountain to calm down the enraged.

And as the newly refurbished MPAs cafeteria in the Sindh Assembly reopened on Thursday, those who had looked miffed put their anger behind them and oohed and aahed at the new space.

Patties, chicken sandwiches, bite-sized samosas and spring rolls were on the menu on Thursday, informed a staffer behind the counter, laden with gleaming cloches. “We’ll be open at 9am and close around 3pm or 4pm and we will serve snacks and lunch,” he said, but couldn’t tell what the food would be priced at. The Senior Education and Literacy Minister Pir Mazharul Haq sat at the edge of the fountain, looking relieved after a testy debate before a bill to establish the Habib University was passed. Speaker Nisar Khuhro was all smiles at the cafeteria being reopened after three years, and his presence will be felt even when he’s not there: a photograph of him with the late Benazir Bhutto is placed prominently.

Several MPAs, assumedly tired out after the session, had already sunk into the plush sofas before the inauguration, while others were just glad to finally have a place to drink tea. The elected representatives usually leave and head home or to their offices for lunch, while some parties serve up lunch in their parliamentary leaders’ offices, brought in by men groaning under the weight of a degh.

A sign of things to come when the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) finally breaks with the government – it is inevitable before the elections appears to be the common theory – was the party members’ anger on Thursday. An angry speech by MPA Tahir Qureshi was followed by the party’s walkout from the assembly.

For the past two days, the MQM has been sending out missives from their MNAs and MPAs, all frothing at the mouth about the banned Peoples Amn Committee. In one statement, they alleged that “the city was being held hostage by the notorious Amn Committee and other ancillary groups” and that the lack of effective action by law enforcement agencies was “criminal negligence”.

But they weren’t the only ones who were riled up. Anger at the events of May 22 was brimming at the surface, especially among some of the Pakistan Peoples Party’s members. The attack on the Awami Tehreek’s rally on May 22 led to several people being killed and several MPAs from the PPP asked for prayers for Ghazala Batool, who was reportedly shot dead during the rally. There was also a request for a prayer by MPA Bachal Shah for the Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz’s Muzaffar Bhutto, an alleged victim of an enforced disappearance. His body was found near Hyderabad on the same day the rally was attacked.

June has already claimed two members of the Sindh cabinet. Missing in action at the assembly on Thursday was the rather vocal Sassui Palijo, who lost hold of the culture ministry after a widely publicised argument in a Sindh cabinet meeting over the development of the Zulfikarabad project. But the man who did make an appearance was the constantly smiling Manzoor Wassan. He looked decidedly upbeat even though he is no longer the Sindh Home Minister, having resigned on June 1 because he needs ‘bed rest’. Given how relaxed he looked, perhaps Palijo can be convinced to follow suit?

Published in The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2012.

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