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ISLAMABAD: Opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Shah has written a letter to National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, asking him to issue a production order for the imprisoned MNA Jamshed Dasti to enable him to participate in the ongoing budget session of the assembly.

In the letter, Mr Shah has regretted that the MNA was arrested by Punjab police when he was going back to his constituency in Muzaffargarh after attending the assembly session on Wednesday allegedly for instigating people and forcibly releasing water from a main canal into a minor canal.

Being a parliamentarian, it was Mr Dasti’s right to attend the assembly session, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Shah has convened a meeting of all opposition parties on Monday (tomorrow) to devise a strategy for the ongoing budget session of the assembly.

The opposition members have been boycotting the budget debate over the government’s refusal to telecast their speeches live on the state-run television.

Shunning its reluctance to do so, the government has now agreed to telecast the speech of Mr Shah, but the opposition is demanding that speeches of all parliamentary leaders be telecast live.

On two occasions, the opposition parties have held their own session outside the Parliament House, calling it “Awami Assembly.”

Mr Dasti, who had been elected MNA as an independent candidate in the 2013 general elections and later formed his own party called the Pakistan Awam Raj, was arrested after police registered a case against him on an application by the Kot Addu sub-division officer of the irrigation department. The official alleged that Mr Dasti had forcibly released water into Dinga Canal, which had been closed under the water rotation programme prompted by water shortage in the area.

Qureshi, Hashmi not allowed to meet imprisoned MNA

The MNA was presented before a city magistrate on Friday who sent him to Multan central jail on two-week judicial remand. The opposition parties are condemning Mr Dasti’s arrest, alleging that the Punjab government is victimising the MNA due to his boldness and for openly criticising the rulers.

The police claimed that the MNA had been arrested for allegedly instigating people to open the sluice gate of the head-works.

Justifying his move, Mr Dasti said he had released water into the minor canal to facilitate small farmers who had been crying over unavailability of water for their crops.

Barred from meeting Dasti

The Multan central jail authorities did not allow politicians Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Javed Hashmi to meet Mr Dasti on Saturday. An exchange of argument took place between Mr Qureshi and policemen deployed outside the jail gate.

Mr Qureshi said that he had come there to obtain signatures of Mr Dasti on an application for his production order by the NA speaker. He termed Mr Dasti’s arrest unconstitutional act because no MNA could be arrested without prior permission of the speaker.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf workers held a protest demonstration outside the jail.

Mr Hashmi sat on a chair outside the outer wall of the prison to protest against not being allowed to meet Mr Dasti.

Talking to the media, he criticised the government decision to not allow anyone to meet Mr Dasti and said that the government was introducing wrong traditions.

On the call of the Seraiki Suba Movement and the Seraikistan Qaumi Movement, a demonstration was held at Chowk Nawan Shaher to protest the arrest of Mr Dasti.

Protesters said that the Seraiki belt was being deprived of its due water share. They said that people who had been illegally allotted land were involved water theft.

They demanded immediate release of Mr Dasti.

Shakeel Ahmed from Multan also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2017