KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly’s session on Tuesday was adjourned for Friday after its heavy agenda was accorded no attention as the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, the largest opposition party in the house, and the treasury benches exchanged barbs from the outset, leaving Speaker Siraj Durrani with little reason to let it proceed further.
Scathing remarks were heard from the lawmakers sitting on either side of the aisle that led the chair to warn the members not to use abusive expressions against each other, or else he would have to use the powers that he never chose to exercise previously.
The pandemonium had its roots in the closing moments of the previous day’s proceedings in which the opposition members had reportedly used “extremely inappropriate and abusive” words and symbols when the house was abruptly adjourned after Leader of the Opposition Firdous Shamim Naqvi spoke on the alarmingly increasing dog-bite cases in the province.
As the proceedings resumed on Tuesday, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Chawla rose and referred to the slogans chanted by the opposition members, those belonging to the PTI in particular, and pointed towards the opposition benches, saying: “What will they feel if we call them with that word?”
His statement was still unfinished when most opposition members rose and countered him with loud jeers.
Barbs fly as issue of dog-bite cases takes an ugly turn in the house
The house virtually saw a war of demeaning words from either side directed towards each other. The treasury benches chanted slogans against Prime Minister Imran Khan and received equal response from the opposite side in which the leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah were abused.
All this happened after a statement of Speaker Durrani, who made it while referring to Monday’s happenings, when the PTI members used symbols of dogs in coining their anti-Sindh government slogans.
“The way the sanctity of this house was breached yesterday is extremely appalling and unacceptable,” he remarked.
He said the way certain lawmakers made videos of those proceedings and sent them outside had made the situation even graver.
“It was very sad what happened yesterday as some members created chaos in the house and made its videos. Those clips were sent to TV channels as well. You are not supposed to make footage in the house as you all are here for lawmaking,” said Mr Durrani.
“Everyone has the right to protest, but there are certain rules that are mandatory to keep its decorum and sanctity. Such a protest should have been made outside the house,” said Mr Durrani. “No one can be allowed to breach sanctity of the house in such a disgraceful way. This is not a stadium or a public meeting place.”
Threat to ban mobile phones
Speaker Durrani said he would have no other option but to ban mobile phones in the house if the lawmakers did it again in future.
He warned the lawmakers to follow the rules of procedure of the house, or he had the powers to take action against those who were found violating them.
“I have respect for all of you. I don’t want to use those powers, but, kindly, do not make videos in the house.”
Minister Chawla demanded the opposition members apologise for the inappropriate language they had used against the treasury on Monday.
He said everyone in the house had equal respect, which should be kept in mind by the opposition members.
“Yesterday, some members hurled such remarks which even cannot be repeated here. We can move a privilege motion against them if we want since the issue is perfectly suitable for this. They abused even our women members.”
The minister demanded that the opposition leader tender an unconditional apology for what happened on Monday since, as Mr Chawla added, Firdous Naqvi was leading his fellow members who chanted insulting slogans.
Anarchy ensued when he said: “What will you feel if I call someone …” referring to an animal that is at present in the news for causing health-related issues.
Members from the two sides hurled indecent remarks at each other.
The minister insisted that his side had never used the word ‘dog’ for anyone, but “they did it. I can prove this. All this is now part of the assembly’s record.”
Mr Naqvi said the government’s failure in protecting people from dog bite was one of many such letdowns that merited the chief minister to apologise to the people of Sindh unconditionally.
“More than 180,000 people have been bitten and wounded by stray dogs in Sindh,” said the opposition leader.
Minister Chawla said instead of the chief minister, the prime minister should apologise to the people of Pakistan.
He sarcastically questioned the ignorance of certain lawmakers about decorum of the house and repeated his demand that the opposition leader tender an apology.
‘Go CM, go’
Speaker Durrani said abusing other members was not acceptable. The statement from the chair enraged the opposition members further and they began chanting “Go CM, go”.
The treasury members responded with similar slogans against the prime minister.
The lawmakers belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan were not amused with the use of unparliamentary language in the house and staged a walkout.
Despite repeated efforts by the chair to keep emotions in check, the chaos worsened.
The speaker adjourned the session to meet again on Friday.
Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2019