KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Thursday informed the Sindh Assembly that the PPP had never lost an election where people were allowed to cast their votes and that was evident from the “resounding” victory of its candidate in the recent Dadu by-election.

“Dadu is a district where even dictator like General Zia could not [stand] despite his use of all tools that he owned to perpetuate his tyrannical rule,” said Mr Shah while taking part in speeches greeting Saleh Shah Jilani for taking oath in the provincial legislature.

Mr Jilani has won the by-election on a seat in Dadu, which was vacated because of the death of his father Ghulam Shah Jilani.

“We just want to see people are allowed to cast their votes. Wherever they have been allowed, our party has never lost that election,” he claimed.

Speaker Siraj Durrani and several other members from the treasury benches also congratulated the newly-elected PPP lawmaker.

However, members belonging to three large parties sitting on the opposition benches walked out when Mr Shah was formally sworn in. This was seen to be ‘revenge’ on their part as the treasury benches had left their seats when GDA’s Moazzam Abbasi was administered oath recently.

Mr Abbasi had defeated PPP’s Jameel Soomro in a by-election in Larkana.

However, soon after the opposition lawmakers returned, Opposition Leader Firdous Naqvi greeted Mr Shah with suspicions about fairness in polling.

He then confronted the chief minister about the latter’s statement that the PPP would win elections on its performance.

“I challenge the chief minister to resign from his seat and fight election against me in my constituency,” said Mr Naqvi.

“Your claims on performance are utterly false, which are evident from the miserable conditions of hospitals and schools in Sindh,” he claimed.

His statement was not easily digestible for the treasury benches and the PPP cadres sitting in the visitors’ galleries and the house echoed with voices criticising the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf stalwart.

Speaker Durrani advised the opposition leader to wait for the next general election.

Information Minister Saeed Ghani rose to “challenge” the opposition leader.

Such proceedings, which had already consumed a good chunk of time of an already-delayed day’s session, failed to subside as PTI’s Saeed Afridi was next.

“You [Mr Ghani] should contest election against me before the opposition leader,” he thundered.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Chawla and PPP’s Sharjeel Memon played the final pieces of the bizarre puzzle. The former said he would vacate his reserved seat and was ready to fight election against anyone from the PTI.

Mr Memon said he was sure none of the PTI lawmakers would resign from one’s seat as they knew well it was a one-off victory that lady luck had brought for them.

He suggested that Murad Ali Shah would be ready to contest on a by-election if “PTI’s lawmakers here convince their Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign and compete against our chief minister”.

Speaker Durrani was not amused with the unending war of words eating up the day’s business.

The change in the chair’s mood finally gave an end to the futile debate as Question Hour was finally called.

Sindh Urban and Regional Master Planning Authority Bill

Parliamentary secretary for local government Saleem Baloch told the house that the government was drafting the Sindh Urban and Regional Master Planning Authority Bill, which would remedy the Sindh Building Control Authority’s inability in stopping illegal constructions.

Responding to a notice moved by Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Ra’na Ansar questioning continued illegal construction across Sindh, Mr Baloch said the SBCA was taking action against such buildings.

“Some 650 operations have been carried out against such constructions. We have formed a task force lately at district level, which would take action against illegally built structures with the help of district administrations,” he added.

The session was adjourned for Monday after it was found that less than 42 members were in the assembly hall.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2019