PakistanPolitics

NA Session Marred by Protests as New MNAs Take Oath

The inaugural session of the 16th National Assembly witnessed chaos and commotion on Thursday as the newly-elected members of the lower house of Parliament took oath amid allegations of “rigging” by the PTI-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC).

The session, presided over by outgoing speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, began with the national anthem but soon turned into a noisy affair as the SIC members, who have joined hands with the jailed PTI founder Imran Khan, surrounded the speaker’s podium and raised slogans against the PML-N and the PPP.

The PML-N and the PPP have formed a coalition government after securing majority seats in the February 8 general elections, which the PTI and its allies have rejected as “fraudulent” and “manipulated”.

The oath-taking ceremony was attended by several prominent politicians, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who returned to the Parliament after more than six years, former president Asif Ali Zardari, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, and MQM-P leader Farooq Sattar.

The speaker appealed to the protesting members to maintain order and decorum in the House and allowed them to take oath along with the other members. However, the SIC members continued to chant “qaidi number 804” – the number assigned to Imran Khan in the Adiala jail where he has been incarcerated since August 2023 on corruption charges.

The PML-N members responded by shouting “ghari chor” (watch thief) – a reference to the alleged theft of a wristwatch by Imran Khan from the Parliament House in 2018.

After the oath-taking, the SIC members demanded to speak on a point of order and questioned the legitimacy of the PML-N and the PPP members, claiming that the PTI had won 186 NA seats in the polls.

“Mr speaker, the people sitting on your left are strangers and do not belong here,” said PTI’s Barrister Gohar, adding that the speaker could only be elected when the assembly was complete.

He also raised the issue of allocation of reserved seats, which has been delayed due to a dispute between the caretaker government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The speaker gave the floor to PML-N leader Khawaja Asif, who countered the PTI’s allegations and pointed out that the SIC had not submitted any list for the reserved seats.

He also accused the PTI of creating hurdles in the democratic process and urged the speaker to proceed with the election of the speaker and the deputy speaker, which is scheduled for Friday.

However, the SIC members did not let Asif speak and resumed their protest, forcing the speaker to adjourn the session till 10am Friday.

The PTI-backed SIC members then staged a walkout from the House and announced that they would boycott the election of the speaker and the deputy speaker.

They also vowed to continue their protest until their demands for a free and fair election were met.

The PML-N and the PPP leaders, meanwhile, expressed their confidence in their coalition and said that they would work together for the development and stability of the country.

They also condemned the PTI’s protest and said that it was an attempt to undermine the mandate of the people and the sanctity of the Parliament.

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