No oath­­-taking: MPAs thwart Kumar’s assembly dream, again

Session prorogued after lawmakers protest

Sohail Khattak March 03, 2018

PESHAWAR: A second attempt by the provincial assembly to administer the oath to a member-elect on the reserved seats was again thwarted by lawmakers on Friday, prompting the speaker to prorogue the session indefinitely.

Baldev Kumar, a candidate for the reserved seats for minorities, was next in line after the incumbent Sardar Suran Singh was gunned down outside his house in April 2016. However, Kumar was suspected of being involved in Singh’s murder and has been on judicial remand.

But the Peshawar High Court last month ordered the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to administer the oath of MPA to Kumar.

After an abortive attempt earlier in the week, Qaiser had issued orders to produce Kumar in the assembly on Friday so that he could be administered the oath.

The oath-taking was included in the house agenda for Friday as an additional item.

The assembly sitting was scheduled to start at 11am.

After the recitation of the Holy Quran, Qaiser summoned Kumar.

With Kumar running late, Qaiser continued with the process. He called out three times for Kumar to stand-up for the oath-taking.

Lawmakers, however, started protesting against the move. They claimed that they will not let the speaker administer the oath to Kumar.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker Mehmood Jan and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Parliamentary Leader Sardar Aurangzeb Nalota warned the speaker that they would boycott the sitting if Kumar was brought for the oath.

"Suran Singh was a member of the assembly and he was the beauty of this house. But he was killed for his seat and this person, Baldev Kumar, is accused of his murder,” Jan said.

“We cannot sit in the house with him," he declared, as he urged other lawmakers in the assembly to support him in a boycott of the house.

Nalota said that a dangerous precedent would be set if Kumar is allowed to take oath as he termed it a threat to the life of every lawmaker in the house.

As lawmakers started filtering out of the house, those remaining pointed out the incomplete quorum.

After the protest, the speaker counted the number of lawmakers present in the house and found that the quorum was indeed incomplete.

Just 12 minutes after the session had begun, it was prorogued until further orders without taking up any of the agenda items.

With the session prorogued, Kumar was unable to take oath on Friday. Hence, he will be unavailable to cast his vote in the Senate Elections which are scheduled to be held in the K-P Assembly on Saturday to elect 11 candidates from the province to the upper house of parliament.

Curiously, Kumar is on PTI's priority lists which it had submitted to the ECP in the 2013 general elections. It means that when Singh vacates the seat, Kumar would replace him.

Singh, who held the portfolio of Special Assistant to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister on Minority Affairs, was murdered outside his home in Buner on April 22, 2016. As the police looked for his murderer, the ECP had notified Kumar as the returned candidate.

Police, though, soon arrested Kumar on charges of ordering the hit on Singh.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2018.

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