The Backbencher: Allocation of seats causes shouting match in assembly

Nusrat Abbasi questioned Raza and the ‘Sindhiness’ of PPP MPAs before walking out.

Tooba Masood September 26, 2014


The reporters sitting in the press gallery on Thursday morning were whispering. They kept checking their cell phones, Twitter and were talking to each other constantly, to check if anyone had heard anything from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

Till 10:45am, they were sure that the party would walk in and sit through at least 15 minutes of the session before complaining about the Rangers raid at their offices on Wednesday night or argue for more administrative units. But no such luck.

Several reporters sighed and sunk into their seats as they prepared to sit through what promised to be a boring session - but then, someone started shouting.

For a second, 30 to 40 pairs of eyes turned towards the treasury bench - to scan the seats assigned to MQM MPAs till they realised that the noise was coming from the front of the hall. Pakistan Muslim League - Functional’s (PML-F) Nusrat Seher Abbasi was standing tall, proud and demanding that the deputy speaker find her, and members of her party and the Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz, a decent place to sit.

Abbasi was furious that the PML-F and PML-N MPAs did not have a place to sit. The deputy speaker, who was already quite annoyed, told Abbasi to sit anywhere for now and take the matter up with the speaker or discuss it later in her chambers.

This made the leader of the opposition, PML-F’s Shaheryar Mahar, angry. He started accusing the deputy speaker of running the house like a dictator. “Is this a martial law?” he said. “I feel like we are being ordered around by the chief martial law administrator.” He insisted that it was imperative for Raza to solve this issue before continuing with the session.

Raza stood her ground and claimed that she would not be told how to run the house and proceeded with the Fateha and question-answer hour. Both, however, could not happen as the opposition kept disrupting the session. Sharjeel Memon, Mukesh Chawla and Sikandar Mandhro decided to intervene and soon the matter was resolved.

Five minutes later, however, Mahar asked the deputy speaker if he could present a resolution.

The deputy speaker, like everyone in the room, knew what resolution he was talking about and didn’t seem particularly interested in hearing him out.

She turned to Mahar and simply said: “No.”

Mahar and his MPAs who had just taken a seat, stood up and threatened to walk out. Raza repeated herself, this time loudly, and said that they would continue with the day’s agenda and come back to the resolution.

A furious Abbasi started shouting again and questioned Raza and PPP MPAs ‘Sindhiness’ before walking out with the opposition. To which Raza said: “Nusrat, I will not enter a screaming match with you.”

Unfortunately for Abbasi and Mahar, seconds after they walked out, the deputy speaker decided to hear out the same resolution which was being presented to the house by the PPP’s Sohail Anwar.

This resolution was then unanimously passed by the House - without the opposition or MQM present. To rub salt on the opposition’s wounds the resolution was read, reread and read aloud by all PPP MPAs, including Nisar Khuhro and Hasnain Mirza.

The opposition, led by Mahar, returned to the assembly hall and decided not to take up the issue again. This was a signal for reporters and photographers hovering above in the press gallery that the theatrics were over and they should get ready to take notes on the Dow University of Health Sciences amendment ordinance.

The MPAs were about to get down to the bills but then someone fell out of a tree protesting outside the assembly building.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2014.

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