In a free-for-all shouting match, some members of Sindh Assembly made it clear during Thursday’s session that they were unhappy with the new local government act.
The house echoed with shouts of “shut up”, “shame, shame” and “traitor” as members of the treasury and opposition benches tore up copies of the agenda and documents on the desks. Opposition members, wearing black armbands, even walked out of the hall three times to register their disapproval of the Sindh Peoples’ Local Government Act.
After a prolonged discussion and the walkouts, members of Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F), National Peoples Party (NPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and Awami National Party (ANP) were allotted seats on the opposition benches. The situation worsened, however, when Speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro announced that the governor has given his assent to the local government law.
“You cannot say shame to a governor’s message,” he tried to reason but the legislators continued to call the Pakistan Peoples’ Party members ‘traitors’. The protesters, led by Nusrat Sehar Abbasi, PML-F’s Marvi Rashdi, PML-Q’s Shaharyar Mahar and ANP’s Amanullah Mehsud, accused them of dividing Sindh by introducing two different local government systems. The PPP members retaliated by calling the protesters ‘a product of dictators’.
“You people have now become psycho,” said Senior Education Minister Pir Mazharul Haq. “There is a dire need to refer you to mental hospitals. This is not a way to protest so stop dancing in front of us.”
Abbasi responded that, “The people of Sindh will not let you escape and hide, and history will not forgive you. You do not even know how to behave with a daughter of this land. It seems you are not a son of this soil.”
After the opposition members walked out, the PPP ministers led a charge against them. “These people are seemingly involved in the murder of our leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto because they backed all wrongdoings and elected generals in uniform,” said PPP’s Rafique Engineer.
By this time, Abbasi had returned to the house and started chanting, only to be yelled by the finance minister, Murad Ali Shah, to shut up. This worsened the tension between the PPP and PML-F legislators.
PPP fights back
A unanimous censure motion was passed against Jam Madad Ali, Abbasi, Rashdi and Mahar, who had used unparliamentarily language and wasted assembly time. Later, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam told the media that the PPP has no issue with protests, as long as they are done in a parliamentary manner and within the “norms of decency”.
“We hope that the members of these parties can record their protest in a democratic way in the next session,” he said. Memon added that he held back because he respected MPA Abbasi. “We continued to display patience and tolerance but the woman made personal attacks.”
Memon insisted that the protesting members were allies of the former president, Pervez Musharraf. “They have now joined the nationalists but they should know that you cannot hide the truth from the people,” he said.
Responding to an accusation that the PPP gave Musharraf a farewell guard of honour, Memon said that the general did that himself. “There was no prime minister or cabinet member at the guard of honour,” he said. “Even the PTV cameraman did not go… there was only one cameraman from a private television channel.”
Memon called the alleged deal between the late PPP chairperson, Benazir Bhutto, and Musharraf “political thinking”. He added that if it was not for the National Reconciliation Order, the judiciary would not have been restored.
Seats for opposition
After the two and half hour delay in the beginning of the session, the opposition members asked the speaker to allot them opposition benches. The speaker denied, however, their request. “I cannot allot oppositions seat to ministers of your parties because their resignations have not been accepted by the governor yet,” he said.
Khuhro added that the ministers are still receiving salaries and other benefits and will be allotted seats once their portfolios are withdrawn. Later, the opposition members submitted their application and staged a token walkout. The session was adjourned till November 30. With additional input by Saba Imtiaz
Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2012.