There was much commotion in the room on Monday as treasury benches sounded out against power cuts after the opposition walked out of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly session, protesting chairperson appointments for the district development advisory committees (DDAK).
The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) parliamentary leader Lutfur Rehman raised the issue of appointing chairpersons for DDAKs in the province.
Speaking on a point of order, Rehman argued the government ignored elected lawmakers and appointed women who came on reserved seats as chairpersons. He cited the example of Lakki Marwat where a female MPA on a reserved seat was made the head of the DDAK. Rehman also criticised appointing serving minsters in the role, arguing it was “injustice against the opposition”.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) parliamentary leader Syed Mohammad Ali Shah Bacha backed Rehman’s complaint. Bacha pointed at the situation in Malakand division where the chairperson was a woman on a quota seat. He suggested the opposition stage a walkout against this “injustice”.
Another opposition member joined the chorus; according to Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) MPA Sardar Aurganzeb Nalhota opposition lawmakers were also ignored in Mansehra and Abbottabad.
Minister for Communication and Works (C&W) Yousaf Ayub responded to the accusations, reminding them the government had appointed opposition lawmakers as DDAK chairman in Battagram and Kohistan.
However, Ayub downplayed the criticism on the selection of women lawmakers. The minister argued women were part of the house and opposition on the basis of gender was regrettable.
This did little to simmer the opposition down – they persisted with a walkout and were brought back by minsters Israrullah Gandpur, Sirajul Haq, Sikandar Sherpao and Shaukat Yousafzai.
The K-P Arms Ordinance 2013, K-P Explosives Ordinance 2013 and K-P Explosive Substance Ordinance 2013 were also introduced in the assembly. Before the session was prorogued indefinitely, a resolution was adopted allowing the use of the house for presidential election polling.
During the session, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Qalandar Lodhi drew the attention of the house towards delays in repairing damaged transformers. The chief minister promised transformers would be repaired within 24 hours in areas where bills were paid regularly, reminded Lodhi. However, this was not the case in his constituency (Abbottabad) in spite of no arrears. Another PTI member Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani asked the chair to take stock of the situation before people start attacking lawmakers’ residences.
After a large number of treasury members clambered on top of their seats and started talking simultaneously, Speaker Asad Qaiser gave the floor to C&W minister Yousaf Ayub whose voice only drowned in the din. The speaker, who was presiding over the session, then gave the floor to Minister for Public Health Engineering Shah Farman to speak on the issue.
Farman agreed with the protesting lawmakers and shared their apprehensions about Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco). “Prolonged power cuts are a conspiracy against the PTI government,” he said.
The centre has still not advertised the Pesco chief vacancy but has done so for other similar positions. “All this is done against K-P deliberately and it is our weakness to not overcome this issue.”
Chief Minister Pervez Khattak countered his government’s critics asking them to give his government at least 90 days which will be completed on August 30. “Then you will feel the change yourself.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2013.