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KARACHI: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement on Friday appealed to the Sindh government to get all “innocent political prisoners”, including city mayor Waseem Akhtar, released in the larger interest of the country.

The MQM on its part took some bold decisions in the larger interest of this country, the government, too, should take big decisions to release all innocent political workers who had been in prison, said Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Khawaja Izhar-ul-Hassan while elaborating the point of order of his colleague Rauf Siddiqui regarding release of political prisoners.

Mr Siddiqui, who himself was brought to the assembly from the prison to attend the session, drew attention of Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani towards hardships of the prisoners. The lawmaker said he had been handed over two letters by the prisoners. One of them was addressed to the chief minister and the other to the Sindh Assembly Speaker with the request to get them relief. He said criminals should certainly be punished but innocent political prisoners such as Kanwar Naveed Jamil, Waseem Akhtar, Sheeraz Waheed, Qamar Mansoor ought to be released for the sake of justice.

Mr Hassan said innocent people must be released from prisons at the earliest as it was a serious and sensitive issue. The apprehensions of the families of arrested political workers could only be dispelled when they would reach home, he added.

After his speech, Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani, who had called the house to order at 10.15am, adjourned the session till Monday.

Mr Hassan later told the media that the demand for the resignation of all MQM lawmakers was unconstitutional as they had mandate from the people. He said they would resign only if desired by their electorates.

In reply to a question, he said 35 of their 50 lawmakers attended a meeting of the parliamentary party while their 11 colleagues were abroad and one lawmaker Sheeraz Waheed was in the prison. The three other lawmakers after switching their loyalty to another party had resigned from the assembly seats. But their resignations were yet to reach the election commission. Similarly, the resignation of MPA Erum Azeem Farooqui had not been received so far, he added. He said the party’s top priority was to get the innocent workers released. For this purpose, he said, they would take up the issue with the law enforcement agencies, the chief minister and prime minister. Providing financial support to the families of the slain workers of the party was equally important, he said. Besides, he added, the party would also strive to get 135 missing activists recovered.

Mr Hassan said the MQM had taken a major decision and would like that the authorities not only welcome this but also judge matters concerning Muttahida workers on merit to fill the political vacuum. “Our decision is the decision of the Muhajir nation,” he added.

Earlier, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah requested Speaker Durrani that if the report on the Karachi Mass Transit Authority Bill 2014 by the standing committee was not presented in the assembly by Monday, the minutes of the standing committee meetings be taken for consideration. He said work to provide modern transport system to the metropolis had been pending for want of Karachi Mass Transit Authority. The chief minister expressed these views when Sindh Transport Minister Nasir Hussain Shah drew attention of the house towards inordinate delay in submitting its report on the bill by the standing committee.

In response to the call attention notice of PTI lawmaker Khurram Sherzaman, the chief minister informed the house that the culprits hiding in a bank near the press club on the occasion of Aug 22, 2016 were arrested. The consideration of the report on The Zulfikarabad Development Authority (Amendment ) Bill and the presentation of the report on Jinnah-Sindh Medical University Bill were deferred till Monday and for two weeks, respectively, on the request of the minister for parliamentary affairs. Similarly, the the report of standing committee on higher and technical education was presented but its consideration was deferred till Monday.

Four other notices on the agenda were regarding inoperative garbage vehicles in Karachi Central, non-payment of prize money to the winners in Quaid-i-Azam International Games, incomplete construction of stadium in Orangi Town and setting up of Sindh Medical Authority under the Sindh National Health Act.

Published in Dawn September 24th, 2016