KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly passed on Friday a resolution condemning the arrest of its speaker, Agha Siraj Durrani and harassment of his family members at the hands of the National Accountably Bureau (NAB).
Despite repeated attempts by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Opposition parties refused to support the resolution. Durrani, who was arrested by the NAB on Wednesday, was brought to the session after acting speaker Rehana Leghari issued his production orders.
The resolution, moved by PPP MPA Ghanwer Ali Khan Isran, took exception to the 'targeted victimisation' under the guise of accountability, terming the move "selective" and "discriminatory".
"We vociferously renounce the way and manner of the arrest of Sindh Assembly speaker without any offence being proved against him," reads the resolution.
"This house unequivocally condemns the reprehensible manner in which the search of his home was conducted by NAB officials, which went on for hours at a time when only his wife, daughters and daughter-in-law were at home," it adds.
"This house also resolves and recommends to the government of Sindh and chief minister to approach the federal government to request an inquiry by chairman NAB into reprehensible behaviour of NAB officials, who raided Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani's house."
Chaos in the House
Earlier, as the question and answer session came to an end, PPP MPA Isran sought the speaker's permission to move his resolution. At this, the opposition members also stood up from their seats. Hasnain Mirza, the parliamentary leader of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), waving a copy of his resolution, said, "I also want to move a resolution on the Kashmir issue and Indian atrocities."
NAB granted eight-day physical remand of Agha Siraj Durrani
Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah intervened. "We want to bring a resolution on NAB and will later consider the Kashmir issue," he said. Mr Speaker, since you are the victim in the NAB case, we request you to hand over the proceedings to the deputy speaker for a while, so that we can debate this resolution and pass it."
GDA's Mirza , supported by other opposition members, however, refused to budge. "Kashmir is a more important issue," he said. "Let us pass it first, and then you can take up your speaker's agenda."
At this, the CM became emotional. "No. We will take up the NAB issue first and then you can bring a joint resolution on Kashmir by re-inviting Speaker Durrani to take part in it too."
The back-and-forth arguments between the CM and Mirza grew more heated. Leader of the Opposition Firdous Shamim Naqvi, as well as other Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and GDA MPAs started protesting in the House "Kashimr, Kashmir. We need Kashmir," they shouted, before staging a token walkout.
The chief minister stood up again to clarify his stand. "No one can deny the importance of Kashmir. We are ready to bring a joint resolution on it and want to convey a strong message against India atrocities. We will smash Indian eyes, if they try to attack us," he said.
Amid the Opposition's protest, Durrani left the session, giving his seat to the deputy speaker. Acting speaker Leghari allowed the PPP MPA to move a resolution against the NAB. PPP lawmakers Saeed Ghani and Imtiaz Shaikh tried to woo the opposition MPAs to return to the House, but their efforts remained unsuccessful.
Saleem Baloch and Sadia Javed of the PPP as well as Kanwar Naveed Jameel and Khwaja Izharul Hassan of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Paksitan, expressed their sympathies with Durrani and condemned the raid at his house. "We condemn the NAB officials' behavior with the family of Agha Siraj Durrani, but can't support the resolution," said MQM-P's Hasan.
The CM requested the deputy speaker to move the resolution for a vote so that the issue of Kashmir could be taken up. As the resolution was moved, MPAs from the treasury supported it, while the opposition members voted against it.
Earlier, as the Assembly's agenda came to an end, Speaker Durrani narrated his story in the session. "I want to inform this House about the episode."
PPP’s thinly-veiled attempt to outwit the NAB
He said that the NAB arrested him from a hotel in Islamabad and later harassed and humiliated his family members. "The action was not taken against me, but against the Speaker's chair," he said.
"After taking me into custody, the NAB officials barged into my home and kept my entire family hostage at gunpoint for more than seven hours. No one can tolerate this," he said.
Durrani, who looked frustrated with the authorities, said, "My family has rendered scarifies for Pakistan and were one of the signatories to the first resolution passed by the then Sindh Assembly for the creation of Pakistan in the 1940s."
He said the NAB officials not only went through the cupboards and other items present in his house, but also harassed his daughters and grandchildren. "I am the Speaker of this House and was not running away. I fail to understand why they treated the Speaker's family like criminals," he lamented. "This was all done in my absence, otherwise the NAB or anyone else wouldn't have dared enter my home and behave like this," he remarked.
Durrani requested the chief minister to investigate the the matter and present a report in the Assembly regarding the raid on his home and harassment of his family members.
The Speaker also expressed concern over some Opposition MPAs who welcomed the NAB's actions and demanded his resignation. "I am not a convicted person. It is just an inquiry against me. I am Speaker of this august House," he said.
Before the session commenced on Friday, Durrani met party leaders and his family members after he was brought to the Assembly premises by the NAB. PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari also visited the Assembly to meet Durrani.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2019.