Home Latest News National Assembly Proceedings Adjourned till 10 a.m. Tomorrow

National Assembly Proceedings Adjourned till 10 a.m. Tomorrow

Friday’s session to elect new speaker, deputy speaker after swearing-in of newly-elected MNAs amidst protests by PTI-backed lawmakers

by Staff Report

Screengrab of the MNAs-elect being sworn into office

Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Thursday adjourned till 10 a.m. tomorrow (Friday) proceedings of the 16th National Assembly in a session marked by chaos as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed candidates continued to jeer and drown out other lawmakers.

The 16th National Assembly came into effect with the oath-taking of all lawmakers elected on Feb. 8 amid rigging allegations, with a coalition of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) set to form the next government after the PTI’s refusal to negotiate with either party. Ashraf, as the outgoing speaker, administered the oath. Amidst the ruckus, PPP’s Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari; PMLN’s Shehbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif; and JUIF chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman took oath.

The PTI-backed independents, a majority of whom have joined the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), continued to interfere with proceedings, surrounding the speaker’s dais and demanding they be granted their share of reserved seats. After several appeals by the speaker, the lawmakers returned to their seats for the oath-taking, but subsequently returned to the dais to be granted to speak on a point of order.

Ashraf rejected this request, informing them they could raise the point of order after they had signed the member register. As lawmakers signed the register one-by-one, SIC lawmakers shouted slogans in favor of PTI founder Imran Khan, currently incarcerated at Adiala Jail, while their opponents alternated between chanting slogans in favor of their leaders or against Khan, describing him as “ghari chor” (watch thief).

After the signing of the register was completed, PTI leader Omar Ayub spoke on a point of order, thanking the people of his constituency and Imran Khan. He said the “PTI” members—now part of the SIC—wanted to register their protest. “The oath we have taken states that we will obey the rules. This House is incomplete … point of order is on this technical point. Our women members are in jail … those that were supposed to be sworn in were not named in the list,” he claimed, as he called on Gohar Ali Khan to speak.

In his point of order, Gohar maintained the PTI had “succeeded” in the polls despite hurdles. “They took our symbol, stopped us, convicted our leader three times in five days … but the people know that Imran Khan is the popular leader,” he said, reiterating that the House was “incomplete” as 23 SIC members elected on reserved seats had yet to take their oath.

At this, PMLN MNA Khawaja Asif sought to speak, which was opposed by Gohar, but allowed by Ashraf. While Asif initially sought to address the issue of reserved seats, the SIC MNAs’ repeated interruptions of his address prompted him to declare he knew what their “real” issue was. At this, he took off his watch and waved it around, a likely reference to the watch scandal that attracted one of Khan’s convictions.

Ashraf then adjourned proceedings until 10 a.m. on Friday. When the House resumes on Friday, it would elect the new speaker and deputy speaker, nominations for whom have already been submitted. Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of PMLN and Ghulam Mustafa Shah of PPP have submitted nomination papers for the speaker and deputy speaker slots, respectively, and are likely to win owing to their numerical majority.

Following their election, the election for the prime minister would be held in the next session on March 4 (Monday). The PMLN-led coalition is fielding Shehbaz Sharif as its candidate for the top office, while the SIC-PTI combine has nominated Omar Ayub Khan.

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