CM-in-waiting Maryam makes parliamentary debut

Published February 24, 2024
PML-N nominee for chief minister, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, and Marriyum Aurangzeb take oath as members of the Punjab Assembly.—Facebook/PML-N Lahore (Official)
PML-N nominee for chief minister, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, and Marriyum Aurangzeb take oath as members of the Punjab Assembly.—Facebook/PML-N Lahore (Official)

• Over 300 newly elected MPAs take oath amid protests, delays
• Election for speaker, deputy speaker to be held today
• PML-N fields Malik Ahmad Khan, PTI-backed SIC nominates Malik Ahmad Bhachar for speaker slot

LAHORE: The 18th house of the Punjab Assembly came into being on Friday, with more than 300 newly elected MPAs taking the oath of office in the maiden session, amid tight security.

The house’s new speaker and deputy speaker will be elected today (Saturday), as Friday’s noisy proceedings were put off soon after the oath-taking and a roll call.

At least 313 MPAs — 215 belonging to the PML-N and allied parties and 98 PTI-backed independents — under the banner of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) — took the oath administered by the outgoing Punjab Assembly Speaker Sibtain Khan.

The proceedings of the new assembly’s first session began over two hours behind schedule because the speaker was late to arrive.

Rumour had it that he was delaying the proceedings on the pretext that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had yet to notify all members on the reserved for women and minorities. However, he finally arrived as reports began to circulate that Governor Balighur Rehman was considering using his authority to appoint someone else to administer the oath to the members-elect.

However, when questioned by a reporter, the speaker downplayed the delay and argued that house proceedings had been put off for up to six hours in the past.

Inside the house, PML-N and rival MPAs indulged in sloganeering matches intermittently, with the PML-N members pointing to Imran Khan’s conviction in corruption references and the SIC members responding by highlighting corruption allegedly committed by the Sharif family.

The SIC did not win even a single seat in the Feb 8 elections, but PTI-backed independents have joined the party as part of an agreement.

Legal experts say no constitutional clause or law bars the two parties from doing so. “An independent candidate may join any party registered with the ECP within three days of notification of his or her win by the ECP, even if the party had not taken part in the polls,” Advocate Usama Khawar said.

“The Constitution talks of a parliamentary party, which comes into being after winning a poll, only once while discussing disqualification of a parliament’s member under Article 63. In all other places, including Article 106 (3c), which deals with reserved seats, it talks of political parties,” he said.

 LAHORE: Newly elected members of the Punjab Assembly are being administered the oath of office by Speaker Sibtain Khan, on Friday.—M. Arif / White Star
LAHORE: Newly elected members of the Punjab Assembly are being administered the oath of office by Speaker Sibtain Khan, on Friday.—M. Arif / White Star

Harassment allegations

The members-elect tried to take the floor even before taking the oath, only to be reminded by the chair that they could not speak before becoming formal members of the house.

PTI-backed members Rana Aftab and Rana Shehbaz complained of harassment at the hands of police and alleged that their guests were not being allowed to enter the visitors’ gallery to witness house proceedings, unlike workers of other parties. Another PTI-backed SIC member, Sheikh Imtiaz, highlighted that he only managed to reach the assembly premises by hiding in the rear seat of a car with tinted glasses.

SIC members alleged that Mian Aslam Iqbal, their candidate for the slot of chief minister, had been arrested and urged the speaker to ensure his reco­very from police custody and called for postponing the session until then.

Speaker Khan promised to seek a report on Mr Iqbal and issue production orders for him if he was found to be arrested. However, he said the proceedings could not be delayed for long, even as the ECP has yet to notify some members on reserved seats, including 24 for women and three for minorities.

PML-N’s Malik Ahmed Khan objected to the discussion, pointing out that the chair should first administer the oath to members before doing any other business. The speaker then put off the proceedings for 45 minutes to let the members offer Friday prayers.

When the house met after the prayer break, the members took the oath of their office and signed the Roll of Call one by one, including the PML-N’s chief ministerial nominee, Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

Besides Ms Sharif, 192 other PML-N members took the oath as the party leadership had directed those leaders who had won both the national and provincial assembly seats to retain the former and vacate their provincial seats. Such leaders included former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son, Hamza Shehbaz.

Besides, 98 members of the SIC, 13 of PPP, 10 of PML-Q, five of the Iste­hkam-i-Pakistan Party, and one each of the Teh­reek-i-Labbaik Pakistan and PML-Zia also took the oath.

Later, the assembly secretary announced the election schedule for the speaker and deputy speaker slots, which will be held via a secret ballot today (Saturday).

Nominations for the two offices were to be accepted up till 5pm on Friday. Later, the speaker extended the time by one hour.

The PML-N fielded Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan from Kasur for speaker and Zaheer Iqbal Channar from Bahawal­pur for deputy speaker, while the SIC nominated Malik Ahmad Khan Bachhar from Mianwali and Moin Riaz from Multan for the two offices, respectively.

A press release quoted the assembly secretary, Amer Habib, as saying late in the evening on Friday that the papers of the four candidates had been accepted.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2024

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