Fists fly in Sindh Assembly session as PTI MPA takes a dig at Bilawal

Published: April 25, 2019
Sindh Assembly Session. PHOTO: FILE

Sindh Assembly Session. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly session on Wednesday turned ugly yet again on Wednesday as the opposition and treasury lawmakers came close to exchanging blows and used derogatory language about each other as well as their party’s leadership.

This was the second consecutive day in the Sindh Assembly when the proceedings were marred by abusive language. The previous day, the treasury members had become incensed when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MPA Raja Azhar had called the Pakistan Peoples Party chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari a “defected leader”. The opposition leader had later tendered an apology on behalf of his party’s MPA and had assured that such remarks would not be repeated.

Come Wednesday, however, the performance was repeated, with PTI’s Saeed Ahmed Afridi mocked Bilawal and referred to him using a pronoun of the opposite gender. “Bilawal says she will not let Imran Khan enter the National Assembly premises,” said Afridi. “If so, we will also not allow the Sindh chief minister to enter this house.”

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The MPA’s remarks caused uproar in the house, as PPP MPAs gathered in front of him and started shouting. Despite the speaker’s repeated warnings, no one from the treasury or the opposition was prepared to pay him any heed.

The situation became so intense that it was difficult to make out what was going on, with the lawmakers’ microphones switched off and several people pushing and shoving each other.

PPP’s Mumtaz Jakhrani and PTI’s Haleem Adil Shaikh were about to punch each other, but some MPAs intervened and brought the situation under control. Sensing the precariousness of the situation, the speaker adjourned the session till today (Thursday).

Screening of women

Earlier, as Durrani gave the floor to Afridi to speak on the budget proposals, he referred to Tuesday’s chaos in the house when PPP MPA Kulsoom Chandio had hit his colleague, Raja Azhar, over the latter’s remarks against Bilawal.

Afridi demanded that female MPAs should be properly screened when they entered the assembly premises.  “Yesterday, a woman attacked our colleague in this house. We fear that a similar incident can happen in the future too. So there should be a proper checkup of women who can carry some sharp-edged weapon to attack us,” he said.

The PPP MPAs protested against his remarks. “He should respect woman and avoid such remarks,” said one PPP MPA. In response, Afridi said, “I belong to the tribal area and know how to respect women. My demand is genuine.”

The speaker asked the members of both sides to go back to their seats and directed Afridi to speak on the budget.  In his speech, Afridi referred to the budget books and said that almost all Sindh government departments had bungled the funds, while paying lip service to genuine issues. “The provincial government should be ashamed because it has also embezzled zakat funds,” he said. At this, the speaker asked him to avoid the word, “ashamed”, in the house and expunged his remarks.

During the debate, PPP MPAs applauded the budget of the current fiscal year, while the opposition members criticised it. Speaking on the occasion, PPP’s Heer Ismail Soho said that there was no match to the Sindh government when it came to the health, education, energy and other sectors. “We have brought about a revolution by establishing cardiovascular diseases centers in almost all districts of Sindh,” she said, adding that Sindh’s was the only provincial government in Pakistan which has generated electricity. “Those who criticise us should go and visit Thar coal power plant and see the development carried out by the PPP over there,” she said.

Opposition’s critique

Razzaque Rahimon of Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) questioned why the Thar Energy Board had no representation from Thar. “There are five to six MPAs from Thar in this house, but not a single lawmaker is a member of the energy board,” he said.

Wasim Qureshi of the Muttahia Qaumi Movement-Pakistan drew the attention of the house towards the severe water crisis in Karachi. “Billons of rupees’ expenditure is shown in budget books, but the majority of the citizens of Karachi, which is the economic hub of Pakistan, are deprived of potable water.”

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Safety concerns

PTI’s Jamal Siddiqui started his speech with a helmet on his head. “I have brought the helmet to defend myself from any attack because a lady in this house attacked our colleague yesterday.”

The speaker asked him to avoid such stunts.

Siddiqui took off the helmet and started his speech on the budget. He talked about the Reverse Osmosis plants set up in Thar and other areas. “The actual price of some RO Plants installed in Thar is Rs1 billion, but Rs2 billion has been shown as having been spent on their maintenance,” he pointed out. “There is a big fraud in the scheme,” he added.

Waryam Faqir of GDA, Shamim Mumtaz of PPP and Riaz Hyder of PTI also spoke on occasion.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2019.

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