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Amid noisy protest, PA demands Zardari’s release from NAB custody

Updated June 13, 2019

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OPPOSITION members hold up placards during Wednesday’s assembly session.—PPI
OPPOSITION members hold up placards during Wednesday’s assembly session.—PPI

KARACHI: Amid noisy proceedings of the first day of the current budget session on Wednesday, the Sindh Assembly condemned the arrest of former president Asif Ali Zardari by the National Accountability Bureau, terming the arrest part of a political witch-hunt plotted by the federal government.

While opposition lawmakers — belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Grand Democratic Alliance — kept standing in front of Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani and chanted slogans against the ruling party and its government in Sindh, Jam Madad Ali of the Pakistan Peoples Party moved a resolution signed by dozens of lawmakers belonging to the ruling party.

The opposition began its protest after the chair refused to allow a PTI lawmaker to speak on a point of order before the day’s business of the house was begun.

The opposition leader terms the sitting before budget session a heist on taxpayers’ money

Naqvi questions legitimacy of PA session

Opposition Leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi said Wednesday’s session was summoned without following standard procedures at which the chair said everything was according to the procedure.

Mr Naqvi said the sitting well before the budget session was a heist on the taxpayers’ money.

Speaker Durrani said he had given ruling over the issue, which declared the sitting legitimate for all practical purposes. He later announced Question Hour.

The opposition members remained gathered in front of the chair and chanted slogans against the government and the PPP leadership.

Question Hour got completed well before the designated time as barring the opposition members, who were chanting slogans, few asked supplementary questions.

The opposition members’ slogans included demand for water to Karachi and government’s failure in dealing with HIV outbreak in Larkana district.

A number of protesting lawmakers stood on benches at which the chair could not stop wondering: “Your colleagues are standing on the benches of the house with boots on and you are silent. I have never seen an opposition leader like you in my life.”

During all such hullaballoo, the chair announced the assent of the governor to the Sindh Prisons and Correction Services Bill, 2019.

Later, PPP’s Jam Madad moved the resolution about the arrest of PPP leader Zardari.

“This house categorically condemns the arrest of former President of Pakistan and current member of the National Assembly, President Asif Ali Zardari by the NAB, in patently fabricated and politically motivated cases,” reads the resolution.

“[The house] recognises the unmatched services and personal sacrifices made by President Zardari for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan; and demands his immediate release given that the NAB is clearly on the political witch-hunt at the behest of forces who want to silence the voices of truth,” it said.

Jam Madad said Mr Zardari was a brave person who had spent more than 11 years of his life in prisons without committing a crime.

Opposition sneaks megaphone inside

During his speech the opposition members started speaking into a megaphone they had brought with themselves.

Jam Madad requested the chair not to allow the opposition to breach the sanctity of the house. Speaker Durrani found it hard to maintain his composure, asking how the opposition members had managed to bring their own megaphone as it was not allowed in the house.

“At least the opposition leader should take care of the sanctity of the house,” said Mr Durrani.

PPP’s Zulfiqar Shah said Mr Zardari’s arrest was made to divert public attention from the “anti-people budget”.

He said such “fabricated cases” would not suppress the PPP. “We have been enduring such situations for decades. You should prepare for the same.”

PPP’s Ghanwer Isran said the PPP was not panicking with its leaders in jail because it had endured similar situation time and again in the past. “Our leaders and cadres are always ready for such situations, but tell us what will happen if the same situation comes to the PTI. They are not made for undergoing the same.”

Shamim Mumtaz said the government would never achieve its “sinister designs by caging the lion”. “Our leaders are being victimised because they don’t speak on your dictation. We don’t need your washing machine, which is made as laundry for the corrupt. We struggle for the people and will remain the same.”

Shehla Raza said those who were demanding explanation for “what we have done in the past 11 years, should first tell people what they have done to the poor in their 11-month rule”.

She said the PTI had backtracked from all the promises it had made to the people of Karachi. “Look at yourselves. You are chanting [slogans] for Karachi and you are the ones who have usurped the rights of Karachi,” she told protesting opposition lawmakers.

Heer Soho, Mehboob Zaman and Burhan Chandio also spoke.

The chair put the motion to the house and declared it passed with majority.

Later, Mr Naqvi told the media outside the house that Wednesday’s session was not legitimate and the opposition could move court against it.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2019