ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: PPP’s Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari on Monday made her debut in parliamentary politics by taking oath as a member of the National Assembly amid noisy protest by opposition members who were protesting against the speaker for omitting their agenda items from the orders of the day issued for the sitting.

The opposition members had requisitioned the session to discuss the issue of the letter written by six judges of Islamabad High Court (IHC) regarding their alleged surveillance by the country’s intelligence agencies and interference in the judicial matters.

Responding to the opposition’s protest, the speaker announced that he could not allow a debate on a sub judice matter.

Some of the protesting PTI members, carrying placards, gathered in front of the speaker’s dais when Aseefa was asked by the chair to sign the roll of members. To avoid any physical confrontation, a number of PPP women accompanied her to the rostrum.

Newly sworn-in MNA’s ‘unopposed’ victory challenged before SHC

Dozens of PPP workers, who were sitting in the galleries, raised slogans like Zinda Hai BB (a term used for Benazir Bhutto) and Jiye Bhutto when Aseefa was signing the roll. On the way back to her seat, she received felicitations from a number of PPP leaders, including Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah who was present in the visitors’ gallery.

She was also congratulated by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif before taking a seat beside her brother and party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. Later, she, Bilawal and some other PPP members left the house after realising that she might not be able to deliver her maiden speech, due to the opposition’s noisy protest.

Aseefa had been elected unopposed from NA-207 Shaheed Benazirabad (formerly Nawab­shah) on the seat that had been vacated by her father Asif Ali Zardari after becoming President.

Later, Speaker Ayaz Sadiq prorogued the session due to lack of quorum, which was pointed out by PPP’s Abdul Qadir Patel in protest against the opposition’s behaviour during Aseefa’s oath, and to deprive PTI members of the opportunity to take the floor.

Speaking on a point of order, PPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar regretted the “unmannerly attitude” of the PTI members during Aseefa’s oath-taking.

As soon as the speaker ordered a headcount after pointing out of the quorum — for which the presence of 84 members is required in the 336-member house — treasury members started exiting the chamber, leaving behind only the protesting opposition members. The speaker then read out the president’s prorogation order, declaring that the house was not in order as only 64 members were present.

Victory challenged

Meanwhile, a PTI candidate petitioned the Sindh High Court challenging the victory of Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari from the NA-207 (Shaheed Benazirabad-I).

The petitioner Ghulam Mustafa Rind submitted that he had also filed nomination papers to run the by-election scheduled to be held on April 21. However, he asserted that the returning officer had rejected his candidature allegedly for concealing the acts in the nomination papers.

The petitioner claimed he had approached an election tribunal against the decision of RO and the tribunal had directed the petitioner to file an affidavit, but at the next hearing, the respondents filed a ‘fake’ and ‘unverified’ power bill before the tribunal. He alleged he was abducted by the Sakrand police when returning to his hometown after attending the hearing and police detained him for two days and an application was also filed before the court in this regard.

Mr Rind argued that the bill did not belong to him and his nomination papers were rejected with mala fide intent as the RO allegedly had close nexus with the PPP.

He recalled that an identical petition was also filed before the SHC circuit bench in Hyderabad, but the same was withdrawn without the petitioner’s consent and maintained that since the rival candidate was influential, this petition may be decided at the principal seat of SHC.

Representing the petitioner, Wahab Baloch asked the SHC to set aside the RO order that declared her unopposed election from the constituency in question.

He also pleaded to overturn the decision of RO for rejecting candidature of petitioner as well as the order of election tribunal about electricity dues.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2024

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