Lawmakers scuffle in the assembly hall on Tuesday. — White Star
Lawmakers scuffle in the assembly hall on Tuesday. — White Star

PESHAWAR: Rowdyism marred the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly session on Tuesday as a fistfight broke out between the treasury and opposition members when the latter resorted to sloganeering to disrupt the proceedings.

The tensions between the two sides had already existed due to discontent between Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani and Opposition Leader Akram Khan Durrani on Monday, which caused commotion in the house and prompted the joint opposition to announce it won’t let the speaker conduct proceedings smoothly.

“The scene on the floor was shocking and it happened after almost two decades,” said a senior officer of the assembly secretariat.

He said today’s situation was a reminder of the 1994 events as the treasury and opposition were involved in the worst scuffle in the history of the assembly when a no trust resolution was moved against the then chief minister, Pir Sabir Shah, of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

The police officials, including women constables, were already called at the request of the sergeant-at-arms to help the assembly’s security staff avoid any mishap and disorder.

Speaker Ghani asks MPAs to behave, suspends deputy sergeant-at-arms, two security men

The additional force was also deployed in press and official galleries.

The sitting began over an hour beyond the scheduled time of 3pm as the parliamentary party meeting of the ruling PTI was in progress.

Chief Minister Mahmood Khan chaired the meeting.

Mahmood Khan, who rarely appears in the house, preferred to stay away from the sitting and left the premises after attending the parliamentary party meeting. The opposition members thumped desks when MPAs of the PTI huddled to discuss their strategy.

As soon as the qari finished translating verses from the Holy Quran, security staff rushed to the floor and encircled the speaker’s podium to keep the approaching opposition members away.

The opposition resorted to sloganeering to disrupt the proceedings when Speaker Mushtaq Ghani began an address to give response to the opposition leader’s allegations.

The PTI lawmakers also rushed to the floor to guard the speaker in an attempt to suppress the opposition.

The chair said MPAs of the opposition had used abusive language against him.

The situation went out of control when ruling party MPAs from Malakand region Fazal Hakeem Khan, Liaqat Ali Khan, minister for agriculture and livestock Mohibullah Khan and others started exchanging harsh words, which led to a scuffle and fistfight.

The chair shouting ‘order, order’ but the lawmakers ignored it.

He asked lawmakers in vain to take their seats. Some ministers and members from the opposition intervened and succeeded in stopping fistfight among colleagues.

The speaker continued the proceedings despite commotion and scuffles and did not yield to the agitating opposition.

He gave the floor to law minister Sultan Mohammad Khan to move the resolutions for the passage of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

The minister also introduced the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Charities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, amid pandemonium.

Mr Ghani told the house that under Rule 227 of the Assembly Rules of Business, he could, in the case of grave disorder arising in the assembly, suspend any sitting for a specific time.

He said being a speaker, he might direct the member creating disorder in the house to absent himself from the meeting of the assembly for any period.

The speaker warned lawmakers to respect parliamentary traditions and refrain from using inappropriate language during the proceedings.

He also suspended the deputy sergeant-at-arms and two members of the assembly security staff for not stopping PPP MPA Nighat Orakzai from occupying his chair on Monday when the sitting was adjourned for 10 minutes.

The sitting was adjourned until 10am on Friday.

The opposition held a meeting soon thereafter.

Opposition Leader Akram Khan Durrani told reporters that the speaker and ruling party’s lawmakers bulldozed parliamentary traditions.

He alleged that Chief Minister Mahmood Khan had instigated the opposition attack by the treasury MPAs.

“For the first time in the history of the assembly, hand was raised against a woman member,” he said, adding that the opposition had decided to continue protest in the assembly.

Mr Durrani also criticised the speaker for suspending three employees of the assembly.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2020