Opposition lawmakers in KP Assembly blast JI chief’s remarks
PESHAWAR: Opposition lawmakers on Friday assailed Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq over his alleged statement that legislators in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are on sale like “sheep and goats” in the run up to the Senate election.
The outraged legislators condemned him in his presence in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and warned they would not tolerate their insult. Sirajul Haq is member of the provincial assembly but he attends its sessions once in a blue moon.
They alleged that the JI chief and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) head Imran Khan had vilified them without any proof. “Imran Khan said the price of a lawmaker has gone up to Rs25 million,” said Nighat Orakzai, a female lawmaker of the Pakistan People’s Party. “And now Sirajul Haq said MPAs are on sale like sheep and goats,” she added, as the JI chief attentively looked towards her.
The PPP lawmaker said the copies of the agenda should be lifted from their desks if they were thought like “sheep and goats.” “Sheep and goats don’t need agenda,” she added angrily.
The Senate election is slated for March 5 in which the 124-member Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly will elect 12 senators through secret ballot. Political parties, particularly the ruling PTI and JI, are concerned that the loyalties of their MPAs are being bought. Such concerns deepened when some affluent individuals filed their nomination papers despite the fact that they are short of numbers required to win a Senate seat.
Pakistan Muslim League-N’s Sardar Aurangzeb Nalotha also took strong exception to Imran Khan and Sirajul Haq’s statements about the feared horse-trading. He said their statements were irresponsible. “If there are MPAs that they know have sold their conscience, they should name them. But we will not tolerate anyone to make generalised statements and insult us,” he said.
Sirajul Haq took the floor to respond to criticism against him but he appeared to be on the defensive, if not completely backtracking from his statement. “The conscience of members of this House is firmer than Himalaya and no temptation can buy it. Even Himalaya can budge, but not members of this assembly,” he said in an effort to calm down the agitated lawmakers.
The JI chief came up with an explanation. “I said those who are thinking of buying MPAs are greatly mistaken. Your honour is my honour. You are poor but not saleable,” he said.The JI chief is running for the Senate seat but his JI lacks the required number of votes for electing a senator. JI has only eight members while it needs 17 to elect its chief as Senator. It is heavily relying on its senior coalition partner, the PTI, which has 58 members in the House. With fears that PTI lawmakers could slip away, the JI is seriously worried about its chief’s election. His defeat could embarrass the party.
Speaker Asad Qaiser also stepped in to assure that the lawmakers would not sell their votes. “We all promise that we will prove from our character that we are clean and honest,” he said in a resolute voice.
As doubts about the loyalty of the PTI lawmakers increased, the ‘like-minded’ group in Imran Khan’s party increasingly came under scrutiny. If PTI viewed these lawmakers with suspicion, it is because some wealthy candidates have pinned hopes on the disgruntled MPAs’ votes.
The group moved to clarify its position on Friday. Ziaullah Bangash, one of the ‘likeminded’ lawmakers along with some other members of the group, said they would vote for Imran Khan’s nominees. He said they held a meeting on Friday after speculations that lawmakers were being priced and decided to support PTI’s candidates. “The party may suspect us and therefore we would like to register our votes by show of hand,” Ziaullah Bangash said, repeating Imran Khan’s demand.When reminded that show of hand was impossible being unconstitutional, he said they were calling for show of hand to prove that they were going to vote for the party candidates.
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