PESHAWAR: The entire hall was abuzz as 111 newly elected lawmakers took up their seats in provincial assembly building on Monday morning as they were administered the oath of office.
The excitement amongst the soon-to-be lawmakers and accompanying visitors — who filled the galleries — was palpable.
The long road to democracy
Earlier in the morning, newly elected lawmakers could be seen, dressed in their statesmen-best suits, heading for the provincial assembly building.
While traffic is often jammed on the thoroughfares of the provincial capital, more so on the first day of the week, the roads leading up to the K-P Assembly were clogged for a different reason.
At around 10am in the morning, long queues of cars lined up on both, Khyber Road and Jail Road, which sandwich assembly building between them. lawmakers-elect and their supporters waited patiently for a security check post to let them through to the assembly building.
Despite the queues, the lawmakers managed to get in on time.
The assembly security staff tried to keep visitors out of the main assembly hall, but somehow some stragglers managed to find a way inside. As a result, the hall was jam-packed.
Due to the large number of people in the hall, the air-conditioning could hardly be felt.
The commotion and hum of visitors and newly elected lawmakers talking to each other drowned out the speaker.
Owing to the absence of K-P Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, who was in Islamabad to take oath as an MNA, Sardar Aurangzeb Nalota of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had been tasked by the K-P Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra to administer the oath to new lawmakers.
After a recitation from the Holy Quran, Nalota congratulated the lawmakers for getting elected to the assembly and then asked them to stand-up to take the oath.
The 111 members, including those elected on general and reserved seats, complied.
There are a total of 124 members in the K-P assembly. On July 25, elections were postponed on two seats including PK-78 and PK-99 since terror attacks had claimed the lives of candidates on these seats. Later, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had called for re-polls in PK-23 after it emerged that the turnout of women voters in the constituency was less than the required 10 per cent.
The remaining 10 seats fell empty after lawmakers, who had been elected simultaneously from provincial and national assembly seats, vacated their provincial seats.
These include seats vacated by former K-P chief minister Pervez Khattak (two seats), Qaiser, Ali Amin Gandapur, Ameer Haider Khan Hoti and Dr Amjad Ali.
One lawmaker-elect, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) reserved seats for women member Nadia Sher was absent from the ceremony. Moreover, two reserved seats for women allotted to PTI are also vacant.
After the oath-taking ceremony, the speaker asked the members to sign the membership roll in order of their constituency.
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) member, who was elected on PK-1 of Chitral, thus became the first member of the new assembly to be called up for a signature in the roll.
Mahmood Khan, PTI’s nominee for the slot of the chief minister, received a big round of applause as his name was called for his signature on the roll.
Supporters of the Awami National Party (ANP) gave an overwhelming response by clapping for Khushdil Khan. Khushdil had beaten PTI’s former provincial information minister Shah Farman to the seat after a recount.
Since Farman had contested on two adjacent seats, losing one, he was next to be called after Khushdil. However, it seemed that the electoral animosity had been foregone by both as they shook hands on the floor of the house with big smiles.
PTI supporters, though could not tolerate the name of former chief minister Akram Khan Durrani being called out and started raising the slogans of ‘Ayi, Ayi, PTI’ in the house.
The assembly security failed to maintain order in the house and the uproar intensified when Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) senior lawmaker Nighat Orakzai was called for her signature. She added fuel to the fire by taunting PTI supporters with thumbs-down gestures.
All opposition party members also wore black armbands to register their protest against rigging in the elections.
Nalota, the chairman of the house, then announced that the election of the speaker and deputy speaker will be held on Wednesday and that nomination papers for the slots could be submitted on Tuesday.
The sitting was adjourned till Wednesday 10am.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2018.