Sindh MPAs sworn in; election for speaker, deputy speaker to be held tomorrow

Published February 24, 2024
A session of the Sindh Assembly is under way on Feb 24. — Tahir Siddiqui
A session of the Sindh Assembly is under way on Feb 24. — Tahir Siddiqui

Amid protests and arrests, newly elected representatives were sworn into the 16th Sindh Assembly on Saturday.

The Sindh Assembly was the second to have its lawmakers take oath after the February 8 general elections, with at least 313 MPAs being elected to the Punjab Assembly a day ago.

According to the results issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan, the PPP is in the lead in the province with 84 seats while the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) is a distant second with 28 seats. Independent candidates, including those of the PTI, secured 14 seats while the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) got two each.

Today’s assembly proceedings took place amid protests at various points across Karachi by the GDA, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and others against alleged rigging in the general elections.

The caretaker provincial government had already announced imposing Section 144 on holding rallies or public gatherings in the so-called “Red Zone” area, where the Sindh Assembly is located.

The PTI, the GDA, the JUI-F, the JI and Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqqiqi had announced holding a peaceful protest in front of the provincial assembly building.

With parties other than the PPP and the MQM-P having decided to boycott the proceedings, MPAs-elects of the GDA, the JI, and independents backed by the PTI — who recently joined the Sunni Ittehad Council as per PTI directives — did not show up today to take oath.

The assembly session, scheduled for 11am, began with a delay of around 40 minutes.

When outgoing Sindh Assembly speaker Agha Siraj Durrani was about to administer oath to the lawmakers, he was stopped by MPA-elect Murad Ali Shah, who told him that he should first be sworn in as a lawmaker before he could administer oath to others.

 Murad signs his oath documents for being elected to the Sindh Assembly. — via Tahir Siddiqui
Murad signs his oath documents for being elected to the Sindh Assembly. — via Tahir Siddiqui

Subsequently, Durrani took oath in the Sindhi language as a lawmaker and then chaired the assembly proceedings. The Holy Quran was recited to mark the commencement of the session.

A first batch of lawmakers took their oath in Sindhi while a second batch did the same in Urdu. A third batch then swore their oath in English.

At one point during the session, Durrani told the people present in the assembly to not shout as PPP workers and supporters chanted slogans.

“Order in the House. Order in the House. Otherwise, I will make you all leave the galleries,” the speaker warned.

After the newly elected representatives had signed their oath documents, the session was adjourned till 11am on Sunday (tomorrow), when elections for the speaker and deputy speaker would take place.

According to a statement issued by the Sindh Assembly, the timing for submitting the nomination papers for the roles was from 2pm to 3pm today while their delivery was allowed till 5pm.

The scrutiny of the papers will be conducted at 6pm today, following which the list of valid nominations will be affixed on the notice board at 7pm.

Protests and arrests

Earlier today, the JUI-F said its supporters from other cities who were arriving in Karachi to participate in its planned protests were being stopped by the police at Karachi’s Toll Plaza.

In a statement, JUI-F spokesperson Sami Swati said, “Talks with the police administration are under way about stopping the caravans.”

“Groups of people from across Sindh are reaching Karachi to participate in the protests. The main group will reach the Sindh Assembly from Awami Markaz as a rally, he added.

JUI-F Sindh Secretary General Allama Rashid Mahmood Soomro then led a protest at the Toll Plaza, saying that the party workers wanted to stage a protest outside the provincial assembly.

 JUI-F workers protest at Karachi’s Toll Plaza on Feb 24. — via Imtiaz Ali
JUI-F workers protest at Karachi’s Toll Plaza on Feb 24. — via Imtiaz Ali

 JUI-F workers protest at Karachi’s Toll Plaza on Feb 24. — via Imtiaz Ali
JUI-F workers protest at Karachi’s Toll Plaza on Feb 24. — via Imtiaz Ali

Soomro asserted that protesting was their constitutional right, which he said was being taken away from the party. He demanded that the Sindh police chief tell them under which law they were not being allowed to enter the city. The protest disrupted traffic flow at the Karachi-Hyderabad Motorway.

Later, GDA Information Secretary Sardar Abdul Rahim said that according to reports he received, workers of his party, the JUI-F, the PTI and the JI were taken into custody at Sharea Faisal, Super Highway, Fountain Chowk, Saddar area, Lalu Khet and other areas.

He criticised the caretaker provincial government for the police actions.

Qaumi Awami Tehreek chief Ayaz Latif Palejo claimed that the police arrested 65 workers, including women, of his party and the Sindhiani Tehreek at the Karachi Press Club after baton-charging them.

 GDA supporters protest outside Karachi Press Club on Feb 24. — via Imtiaz Ali
GDA supporters protest outside Karachi Press Club on Feb 24. — via Imtiaz Ali

Containers were placed at various points across Karachi after the police broke up the GDA and JUI-F protests. They were placed on roads leading to the Sindh Assembly, including at Fountain Chowk, Karachi Press Club, the Arts Council roundabout and Shaheen Complex.

Roads near Sharea Faisal, Nursery and Karsaz Road were also blocked by placing containers there. The Karachi Toll Plaza was closed due to protests by JUI-F workers, causing a traffic jam on roads near Memon Goth.

 Karachi Toll Plaza is closed after protests by JUI-F on Feb 24. — via Imtiaz Ali
Karachi Toll Plaza is closed after protests by JUI-F on Feb 24. — via Imtiaz Ali

JUI-F’s Soomro said that the police stopped their “peaceful” procession without an order or legal notice in different areas of Karachi.

“Our mandate was stolen and we have come out to protest peacefully for it […] Supreme Court and [Sindh] High Court should take notice of this,” Soomro demanded while speaking to Geo News.

Top offices

The PPP has nominated Murad for the post of Sindh chief minister, which he held in the previous assembly tenure as well.

With a two-thirds majority in the house, the PPP also nominated Syed Awais Shah, an MPA-elect from Sukkur and former provincial minister, and Naveed Anthony — elected on a reserved seat for minorities — as speaker and the deputy speaker of the Sindh Assembly, respectively.

The 61-year-old graduate of NED University of Engineering and Technology, Murad would assume the CM office for the second consecutive term. In July 2016, the PPP leadership had brought him to replace Syed Qaim Ali Shah as chief minister in the middle of the five-year term. He then continued to serve as CM for the full 2018-23 term.

Awais, an MPA-elect from Sukkur, had served as transport minister during the last term of PPP government. Belonging to the family of PPP stalwart Syed Khursheed Shah, he is also an engineer by qualification and completed his graduation from Mehran Engineering University, Jamshoro.

Naveed, who first became a member of the Sindh Assembly in 2018 on a reserved seat of minority, served as special assistant to CM in 2016-17.

Separately, the MQM-P, the second largest party in the provincial assembly, has also announced fielding its candidates for the offices of speaker and deputy speaker.

In a statement, the MQM-P said its coordination committee had decided to nominate Sofia Shah Advocate and Advocate Rashid Khan for the post of speaker and deputy speaker, respectively.

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