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Newly-elected lawmakers take oath during inaugural Sindh Assembly session

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KARACHI: Newly elected lawmakers took their oath on Saturday during the inaugural session of the Sindh Assembly amid protests by opposition parties near the provincial legislature’s premises.

Agha Siraj Durrani took the speaker’s oath in Sindhi before administering the oath to the newly elected members of the provincial legislature.

Durrani then administered the oath to the newly-elected lawmakers, with opposition lawmakers from the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), and independents aligned with the PTI absent from the house.

The first batch took their oath in Sindh, the second in Urdu and the third batch of members took their oath in English. A total of 147 members were sworn in with 111 from the PPP and 36 from MQM.

The assembly session was then adjourned till 11am on Sunday (tomorrow) after Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani announced the schedule for the elections of the speaker and deputy speaker.

According to a statement issued by the Sindh Assembly, nomination papers can be submitted from 2pm to 3pm today. Scrutiny of the papers will be conducted at 6pm, following which a list of valid candidates will be posted by 7pm.

Protests by opposition

Before the start of today’s session, workers and supporters of opposition parties entered the high-security red zone after pushing through barricades set up by law enforcement personnel. However, the city’s police intervened and prevented the protesters from approaching the Sindh Assembly. Many have reportedly been detained.

Authorities imposed Section 144 to restrict gatherings near the provincial assembly building in anticipation of protests.

GDA Information Secretary Sardar Abdul Rahim said “over 2,000 party workers have been arrested by police” across Karachi. Speaking to the media near the Karachi Press Club, he stated that the GDA’s protest will continue until their demands are met. He mentioned that the police have blocked different points in the city, preventing political workers from reaching the Sindh Assembly.

Sindh United Party’s leader Syed Zain Shah claimed that all main roads in Karachi were blocked by law enforcement agencies. He asserted that peaceful protests would continue. Speaking to journalists at the Karachi Press Club, Shah mentioned that JI and PTI would also protest against the “bogus elections”.

He added that a meeting of GDA today would decide the further course of action regarding protests in Sindh.

A spokesperson of the Qaumi Awami Tehreek added that around 150 party workers were arrested by the police.

The GDA, JI, JUI-F, and independent members aligned with the PTI refused to take the oath today, opting instead for a ‘peaceful protest’ outside the assembly.

Speaker Durrani, in a media statement, said that the public has rejected those protesting outside the assembly. He suggested that the opposition members should seek redressal of their concerns through the election tribunals instead of holding protests during the inaugural session of the provincial legislature.

The Sindh Assembly consists of 168 members, including 130 general seats, 29 reserved for women, and nine for minorities.

The Election Commission has released notifications for the successful candidates of 163 Sindh Assembly seats, including 27 women and eight minority seats. Notifications for two remaining seats will not be issued due to the unfortunate passing of a candidate, and Hafiz Naeemur Rehman’s resignation from the assembly seat.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) holds the largest parliamentary presence with 114 seats, while the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) comes second with 36 members and Jamaat-e-Islami has three. There are 9 independent lawmakers in the assembly. The Sunni Ittehad Council, supported by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has not reached a decision on joining the assembly.

It’s worth noting that 60 members are entering the Sindh Assembly for the first time. Heer Ismail Soho is the sole female member, elected for the fifth consecutive time. Qaim Ali Shah, elected for the eighth time, has previously served as a member of local government, the National Assembly, and the Senate.

For the position of speaker, the PPP has put forth Owais Qadir Shah, while the MQM has nominated Sophia Shah. For the deputy speaker role, the PPP has endorsed Naveed Antony, and the MQM has proposed Rashid Shah. The elections for speaker and deputy speaker are anticipated on Sunday, with the election for the leader of the house expected on Monday.

A day earlier, the PPP announced that it had again chosen Murad Ali Shah for the post of the Sindh chief minister.

“We will request him [Murad] to take the responsibility of this post again. However, this time around, we have to beat our own record,” said party chief Bilawal, referring to the development work the former chief minister had carried out in the province since taking over the office in 2016 when his predecessor Qaim Ali Shah had stepped down.

He pointed out that the people of Sindh had not only made the PPP successful in the elections but also given the party a better mandate than in the past.

Bilawal went on to acknowledge that with increased expectations from the people, the PPP was committed to addressing the pressing issues faced by the province.