A view of the National Assembly. — Photo by AFP
ISLAMABAD, June 5: Chaotic scenes marred the National Assembly session that elected Mian Nawaz Sharif as prime minister on Wednesday to the extent that Speaker Ayaz Sadiq was obliged to intervene personally to bring calm and apologise for the mismanagement before commencing the official business.
The mismanagement was visible both inside and outside the House. It started with the visitors invited to the event jostling for space in the parking lot and lasted throughout the session.
Once inside the assembly hall, they had to jostle for seats in the visitors’ galleries.
Perhaps the worst came when jubilant PML-N supporters scuffled with the office-bearers of the Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA) who tried to stop them from invading the press gallery.
When PRA representatives insisted on the invaders vacating the seats reserved for mediapersons, the PML-N wallahs came to blows and threatened the journalists with “dire consequences”.
They claimed to have come to the house on the invitation of Hamza Shahbaz Sharif and refused to budge from their seats. That led PRA to boycott the house proceedings.
Noticing the disturbance and fracas in the press gallery, Speaker Ayaz Sadiq himself came to the place and got the seats vacated for the media corps.
At the outset of the National Assembly session, the speaker accepted the responsibility of the mismanagement which, he said, was caused by more cards being issued to the visitors than the seating capacity in the galleries.
Mr Sadiq said he would ensure that such a situation did not arise in future.
Besides Shah Mehmood Qureshi of the PTI informed the new speaker that some non-elected people had entered the house which the assembly’s secretariat should check in future.
Without naming anyone, Mr Qureshi pointed fingers at Dr Asif Kirmani, the personal secretary of Nawaz Sharif, who came to the latter’s seat to drop some papers.
Some guests could also be seen entering the house without any hindrance.
“Probably, this is the first time that a speaker of the National Assembly had to personally get involved in the seating arrangements when there were 1,300 employees to look after the affairs of the house,” said an employee of the National Assembly.
He said over the years, incompetent people having strong political connections had been hired in the NA Secretariat.
Moreover, majority of the NA top bosses including its secretary, Karamat Hussain Niazi and special secretary, Munawar Abbas, both grade-22 officers, were on extensions.
“If a department, which has two grade-22 and five grade-21 officers, cannot effectively make seating arrangements, then the new speaker definitely needs to introduce some changes to the house’s bureaucracy,” said the employee.
Sajjad Chaudhry, who heads the PRA, said it was unfortunate that mediapersons had to face such a situation for no fault of theirs.
Mr Chaudhry, who himself suffered bruises and was left with a torn shirt, said the primary responsibility lay with the assembly staff who let in many people when there was limited space.
Outside the house, there was not even a single assembly staff member to man the parking area of the house. Because of the haphazard parking by the visitors in the absence of ushers, many newcomers had to return without attending the session.
With a little bit of coordination and proper planning, arrangements could have been much better, but, the assembly secretariat seemed least interested, Mr Chaudhry added.
He said it was the job of the security staff and not of the speaker to check entry of non-members into the house.
Later after the swearing-in ceremony at the Presidency, the guests were made to suffer in the scorching heat after they were refused to leave the premises until the new prime minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif, departed.
Both former and incoming federal ministers, diplomats, journalists and other dignitaries invited to witness the oath-taking ceremony were kept standing in the sun for over half an hour.