KARACHI: The rift in the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) - Pakistan has left its MPAs in a state of confusion and indecisiveness about the Senate elections. This was reflected in the low attendance of its members on the first day of the current Sindh Assembly session on Friday. Only seven out of 37 party MPAs attended the session.
However, in a surprising move, the members of MQM-Pakistan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) who joined the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) and claimed that they had resigned from the assembly, returned to the House to participate in the proceedings with the claim that they were still MPAs as their resignations had not been accepted. Some of these MPAs attended the assembly after as long as two years. The PSP MPAs also announced that they would participate in the Senate elections on March 3 and vote for their party's candidates.
In contrast to the PSP MPAs' announcement of participating in the elections, the MQM-Pakistan lawmakers are still confused about whom they should vote for as the Bahadurabad and PIB factions of the party have nominated separate candidates for the upper house of the Parliament. It was this state of confusion that prompted the leader of the opposition, Khawaja Izharul Hasan, to announce that he and others may abstain from the Senate elections if the division within the MQM-Pakistan continued.
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"Today might be my last day in the assembly," Hasan said, adding that he had come to the session to offer fateha for Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani. "Like other members, I am also confused over the differences in my party. We don't want to drag this controversy into this assembly by criticising each other," he said.
The leader of the opposition maintained that if the rift in MQM-Pakistan persisted, a majority of its MPAs would not come to cast their votes in the Senate elections. When he was asked to comment on the reason behind the dispute, he replied with an Urdu proverb, "Do maulviyoon mein murghe haram ho rahe hai [Two cooks are spoiling the broth]".
Hasan also termed the PSP members' return to the assembly as against the law. "We know our legitimacy because our party has elected us. However, these PSP leaders should inform who has given them mandate to sit in the House and cast votes for the Senate," he demanded.
Besides Hasan, the six other MQM-Pakistan MPAs who attended the session included the party's parliamentary leader Syed Sardar Ahmed, Rana Absar, Mahfooz Yar Khan, Rauf Siddiqui and Raja Ansar.
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As the session started with Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza in chair, eight PSP MPAs, seven of whom were elected on the MQM ticket while one was elected on the PTI ticket, Bilqees Mukhtar, Shaikh Abdullah, Irtiza Farooqui, Abdul Razzaq, Sheeraz Waheed, Nadeem Razi, Dilawar Qureshi and Hafeezuddin, reached the assembly gate without passes. The security staff of the assembly initially refused to let them in. However, after a few minutes, they were allowed to join the session after they spoke to the assembly secretary. "We resigned from our membership two years ago but our resignations have not been accepted as yet. Since we are members of this august House, we have come to attend the proceedings," Hafeezuddin, the former PTI MPA, said.
The PSP candidates for the Senate elections also came to the House and witnessed the proceedings from the galleries. Speaking outside the Sindh Assembly, PSP leader Wasim Aftab claimed that lawmakers from MQM-Pakistan's PIB and Bahadurabad factions had also assured support to the PSP candidates in the Senate elections. "The PSP has initiated its parliamentary party today," Aftab told the media.
"We [the PSP] will actively participate in the parliament for the city's peace," the PSP leader said.
Meanwhile, the Sindh Assembly session was adjourned without taking up any agenda to mourn the recent death of Bijarani. A resolution moved by Health Minister Dr Sikandar Mandhro was unanimously passed to pay tribute to the deceased. Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and other MPAs lauded the services of the late Bijarani and his wife for the Pakistan Peoples Party, after which the deputy speaker adjourned the session till Monday.