Amid Protests, Ayaz Sadiq of PML-N Secures Position as NA Speaker

Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was sworn in as the 23rd speaker of the National Assembly on Friday, after securing 199 votes out of 291 cast in a secret ballot. He defeated Malik Aamir Dogar of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-Sunni Ittehad Council (PTI-SIC) alliance, who got 91 votes. One vote was rejected.

Sadiq, who has previously served as the speaker of the lower house twice, from 2013 to 2015 and from 2015 to 2018, thanked PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif for nominating him and expressed his gratitude to Allah (SWT) for being elected for the third time. He also thanked the leaders of all major political parties for reposing trust in his leadership.

The newly elected speaker assured the opposition members of running the affairs of the house with fairness and impartiality. He said he would try to create a consensus in politics with the help of all stakeholders. He urged both sides of the aisle to have differences but in a democratic way.

He also met Dogar after the result was announced and said he would treat him like a big brother. He said his doors were open for everyone and he would listen to their grievances and suggestions.

The election of the speaker was held amid a noisy protest by the opposition members, who chanted slogans against the alleged rigging in the Feb 8 general elections. They also demanded the release of PTI founder Imran Khan, who is currently in Adiala Jail on corruption charges.

The opposition protest started before the session began, when the SIC lawmakers held a parliamentary party meeting in the house’s lobby and vowed to continue their agitation in the assembly. They also boycotted the oath-taking of the new members on Thursday.

As the session started, outgoing speaker Raja Parvez Ashraf asked if there were any new members present who had missed the oath-taking a day earlier. As no new members came forward, he gave the floor to PTI-SIC’s Omar Ayub Khan to speak on a point of order.

Khan alleged that foreigners were present in the house and that people who got a fake mandate had entered the house. He said they should be expelled and that “prisoner number 804”, the number assigned to Imran Khan in jail, should be brought to the assembly.

He also reiterated that the house was incomplete as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had not announced the allocation of reserved seats in the National Assembly. He said they would raise their voice even if their throat was sore or slit.

The speaker informed him that the lawmakers that were sitting in the house were those who were declared as winners by the ECP after the Feb 8 elections. He also added that if they had an objection then they should approach the ECP.

The speaker’s comments infuriated the SIC members, who continued to raise slogans and disrupt the proceedings. The speaker then began the process for the speaker’s election, which lasted for at least two hours.

During the voting, the SIC lawmakers chanted slogans in favour of Imran Khan as they put their ballot paper in the box set up near the speaker’s seat. They also displayed banners and placards with messages such as “Free Imran Khan” and “Stop election theft”.

The election of the speaker was also marred by a walkout and a boycott by two of the PML-N’s allies, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).

The MQM-P walked out of the house and boycotted the polling process for the speaker, demanding a constitutional amendment to empower the local bodies. The PML-N leaders, including Sadiq, went after them in Committee Room No. 2 to win them over and agreed to a constitutional amendment in Article 140. Ahsan Iqbal and Mustafa Kamal signed the agreement on PML-N and MQM-P’s behalf respectively.

The JUI-F, on the other hand, announced that it would not participate in the elections for the top political slots, including the president, the prime minister, and the NA speaker. The JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said his party would sit in the opposition and its lawmakers would abstain from voting during the upcoming electoral events in the assemblies. He also said his party would launch a protest movement against the “rigged” polls soon.

The election of the deputy speaker of the National Assembly will be held later today. Ghulam Mustafa Shah of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Junaid Akbar of the SIC are the candidates for the post.

The election of the prime minister of Pakistan is scheduled for Sunday, March 3. The PML-N has nominated Shehbaz Sharif and the PTI-SIC has chosen Omar Ayub Khan for the position. A candidate must secure 169 votes to win.

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