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ISLAMABAD: The 16th National Assembly came into effect as 302 members took oath on Thursday following the February 8 elections amid allegations of massive rigging with the highlight being the return of ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif to the parliament after a hiatus of over six years.

The outgoing NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf administered the oath to the 302 MNAs-elect in the 336-member house delayed by more than an hour due ruckus in the house by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers.

The remaining 34 MNAs-elect will take oath as controversy for seats reserved for women and minorities belonging to Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) is yet to be decided while some senators who have won the polls did not take oath before the Senate election set to be held in March.

Newly elected MNAs take oath in 16th National Assembly maiden session

The moment the outgoing NA Speaker announced to maintain the order in the house after the national anthem ended, the lawmakers belonging to PTI-backed SIC surrounded the Speaker’s dais, chanting full-throated slogans, in favour of jailed party founding chairman Imran Khan.

It was after an appeal by the NA speaker that the PTI lawmakers settled down and the oath was taken by all the members. However, as soon as the oath was administered, the PTI lawmakers asked the speaker that they be allowed to speak on a point of order.

But their request was turned down, as the speaker informed them that they could raise the point of order after they had signed the role of member register.

Amid the signing, the PTI lawmakers started chanting “qaidi number 804” the number given to PTI founder Imran Khan in the prison where he remains incarcerated since August 2023.

The PTI-backed MNAs-elect chanted “Imran Khan,zindabad!” and “Aayi, aayi, PTI!”, etc.

In response, when Nawaz and Shehbaz entered the assembly, members of their party greeted the two with slogans of “Sher aya [tiger is here]”.

The duo were also met with pro-PTI chants as some MNAs-elect held up posters featuring pictures of PTI founder Imran Khan.

After the newly elected lawmakers were sworn in, the outgoing NA speaker allowed PTI’s Omar Ayub Khan to make a brief speech over the latter’s insistence.

“I want to thank the people of my constituency NA-18 and my leader Imran Khan,” Ayub said. He stated that PTI-backed MNAs wanted to register their protest.

“The oath we have taken today, it clearly states that we will follow the rules and the law […] but at this point, the house is incomplete,” he said, highlighting that several PTI-backed women lawmakers — who had won seats in the February 8 general elections — were languishing in jail.

Subsequently, Ayub urged the speaker to allow Barrister Gohar Ali Khan to speak on the matter of reserved seats. While Ashraf initially expressed reluctance, he later allowed Gohar to make a brief speech and said that he wanted to “set a good tradition in the house”.

Speaking on a point of order, PTI’s Barrister Gohar Ali Khan claimed that his party had won 186 NA seats in the February 8 elections.

He said that PTI-backed lawmakers made it to the NA despite all impossibilities as the party was not allowed to hold rallies and conventions.

“But the nation sent us into this house by supporting the call of “gulaaminamanzoor [slavery unacceptable]”, he maintained.

“You become the public’s representatives only when you respect their mandate,” Gohar said, claiming that the PTI had submitted before the Election Commission of Pakistan that it had a strength of 180 members in the NA.

“Our symbol was taken, our leader was convicted in three cases […] but the nation has shown that the most popular leader of the country is the one and only Imran Khan,” he stated.

“[…] No person can sneak into this house without a public mandate,” the PTI leader said, pointing towards the treasury benches where the PML-N and PPP leaders were sitting.

He further highlighted that the NA was “incomplete” as reserved seats had not yet been allocated to the SIC. Gohar then urged Ashraf to halt the election of the speaker and deputy speaker unless the PTI-backed members on reserved seats were sworn in.

“Mr speaker! The members sitting on the left are strangers and do not belong here,” Gohar said while stressing that no one is allowed in the assembly by any means other than those who come via the people’s mandate.

“The speaker is elected when the assembly is complete,” he added, while referring to the issue of allocation of seats reserved for women and minorities.

After the PTI leader, the floor was then given to PML-N leader Khawaja Asif at which point the SIC members started chanting slogans and recorded their strong protest.

Responding to the PTI’s complaint regarding reserved seats, Asif highlighted that the SIC, which the PTI-backed independent candidates have joined, has not submitted any list regarding the allocation of reserved seats.

However, the PML-N leader could not express himself on the floor for long as the speaker adjourned the session till Friday at 1am.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and JamiatUlema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) chief MaulanaFazlurRehman were among the top politicians who took the oath amid protests by PTI lawmakers.

The outgoing speaker also announced that elections for the NA speaker and deputy speaker would be held today (Friday).

On the second day of the National Assembly, the election for the speaker and his deputy will be held before noon, and the pair will be administered oath the same day. On the third day (Sunday) of the session, parliamentarians will select a leader of the house or prime minister.

Shehbaz Sharif is the joint candidate for the prime minister’s slot against PTI-backed Omar Ayub while AyazSadiq will contest the speaker election against PTI-backed Amir Dogar. PPP lawmaker Ghulam Mustafa Shah will vie for the deputy speaker slot as a joint candidate of the PML-N and the PPP.

The PPP and PML-N reached a power-sharing deal last week after the former agreed to support Shehbaz Sharif for the PM seat in return for governorships and Senate chairman slot.

It may be noted that following the Feb 8 polls, a multi-party alliance was formed comprising the PPP, PML-N, MQM-P, the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party, and the Balochistan Awami Party.

MaulanaFazlurRehman’s political party has four seats in the National Assembly. At present, he is up in arms against the election results. Will he sit on the treasury benches or the opposition, it is yet to be decided by the JUI-F heavyweight.

Shortly after taking oath, Zardari along with Bilawal went to the seat of JUI-F chief to greet him, while Nawaz Sharif left the house without mincing a word with the cleric.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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Pakistani1 Mar 01, 2024 05:31pm
PTI leadership has been repeating fabricated number of seats that now they have themselves started believing it.
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