KARACHI: Chaos ensued at the Sindh Assembly as security was ramped up days after a private TV channel host managed to sneak a gun into the building in order to expose lax security at the venue.
The session started over an hour late as the newly-enforced security clearance procedures were a cause for delays and frustration among attendees.
Television footage showed people arguing with security guards and each other as they waited to get security clearance to enter the building.
Stricter security measures implemented
Lawmakers entered the venue on foot as armed guards stood ready to check them.
Those in the drop-off lane were made to wait until security personnel finished searching cars at the entry gate and lawmakers without the requisite stickers or passes were denied entry and forced to turn back.
Entry to the building was permitted only after a thumbprint scan, a measure that was already in place but not implemented earlier.
Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Izharul Hassan and lawmakers Jam Khan Shoro and Shafi Jamot were forced to walk to the building as their vehicles did not have security clearance stickers.
MPA Murad Ali Shah turned around and left after being told he would have to walk to the assembly as his vehicle was denied entry.
Besides thumbprint scanning and car stickers, other security measures include thorough body searches at seven different points and closing two out of the three entry points to the assembly building.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) lawmaker Waqar Hussain Shah was asked to check in his licensed pistol at the gate.
Journalists were also made to queue up in long lines and wait for security clearance in the sun. The practice of only admitting journalists with press passes will continue.
'Haven't seen these scenes for a while'
Some lawmakers welcomed the stricter implementation of security measures.
PML-F lawmaker Nusrat Abbas took issue with the delay in implementation of security at the building.
"Millions had been spent on security, but we haven't seen these scenes in a very long time," she said.
"We don't have a problem adhering to security arrangements, we will walk from anywhere to reach the assembly."
Nand Kumar Goklani of PML-F was also critical of the earlier lapse in security. "Why has the government remembered security just now? And the government is only occupied with security for members of the assembly. What about security for the millions across Sindh?" he questioned.
"I don't have a problem standing in line, but I'm happy that there are other politicians in line with us. I'm waiting for the chief minister to come to see if he also stands in line," said MQM's Khawaja Izharul Hassan.
Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani, grateful for the support, said: "The assembly was misused for a drama. I'd like to thank those who are supporting the house and cooperating with security."
A private television channel's team was arrested from Sindh Assembly premises on Friday after a team member took a gun inside the house apparently in order to expose sub-standard security arrangements at the building.
A team member concealed the weapon in his clothing and entered the house. Once inside, he presented the weapon before the speaker, shocking lawmakers who called for an inquiry into the incident and better security arrangements for the building "which is already receiving threats from banned organisations".