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KARACHI: The joint opposition staged a walkout and boycotted the Sindh Assembly proceedings on Friday in protest over the rejection of a Muttahida Qaumi Movement demand that the government constitute a house committee to investigate circumstances of the death of an interned party worker in Karachi central prison.

Lawmakers belonging to the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and PML-N also walked out from the assembly along with the MQM legislators. None of them returned to the house, forcing Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani to call it a day at 3.57pm.

As soon as the Friday session began, MQM’s deputy parliamentary party leader Faisal Sabzwari and Leader of the Opposition Khawaja Izharul Hassan lodged a strong protest over the death of their worker Mohammad Hussain Ghanchi who died in the central prison on Thursday.

They said he was the seventh worker who died in captivity.

They demanded formation of a house committee comprising lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to conduct an inquiry.

However, Prisons’ Minister Zia Lanjar said that there was no need of forming a house committee. However, he assured that the matter would be investigated and a report would be submitted to him in a week.

The opposition did not accept his assurance and insisted on an inquiry by a house committee. This irked the minister who said it had become a habit of the opposition to create rumpus on every issue.

Senior Minister Nisar Khuhro said there was a need to hold an inquiry to ascertain whether the MQM worker died of torture in prison or natural causes and it was the responsibility of the prisons’ minister to get the matter probed.

Almost every opposition member stood on their seats and tried to speak, but the speaker did not give floor to any member saying he would not take dictation from the opposition and instructed them to take their seats.

The members declined and said they would stage a walkout. The chair told them to do whatever they like and started the Question Hour.

The protesting opposition boycotted the proceedings and walked out from the house.

Speaker Durrani, who called the house to order at 3.18pm, read out the business on the agenda, which took only a few minutes to complete because of the absence of the entire opposition. At 3.57pm, the chair adjourned the sitting to meet on Monday at 10am.

Later, speaking to reporters outside the assembly, Mr Sabzwari announced that the opposition would lodge a protest again on Monday if the house committee was not formed.

On Friday evening, a notification issued by the office of the provincial minister for law and prisons said an inquiry committee had been constituted to investigate the death of Mohammad Hussain.

The committee has been asked to submit its report within three days to the minister for law and prisons.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2017