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August 16, 2018

Speaker’s election: No upset, no defections seen from either side

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August 16, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The scenes emerging on the first day of the new National Assembly set the ball rolling with animated protest and slogan-chanting owing to the questionable nature of the general elections.

The racket shed light on the future goings-on on the floor during the life of the present Lower House of Parliament in which patience and tolerance of newly-elected Speaker Asad Qaisar and the incoming Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government will be tested again and again.

Asad Qaisar’s maiden adjournment of the process that he had to resort due to pandemonium was his first deferment but he had to do so often because of possible agitation from the opposition benches.

The opposition alliance particularly the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) demonstrated its imminent course of action vis-à-vis the PTI government and the way it will proceed.

Many fervently love and like to wish away incarcerated ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and want him to become history but the first day exhibited that this is not going to be the case, and his PML-N will not let this happen. The inaugural proceedings were clearly indicative of cropping up of his name with reference to his sentencing, his condition in jail and his transportation in an armoured personnel carrier (APC) many times.

The display of posters carrying Nawaz Sharif’s picture and chanting of slogans like “respect the vote” and “fake mandate unacceptable” by the PML-N lawmakers hinted at the kind of protest that they will keep recording.

It was the first time when even before landing in the power corridors that the PTI tasted the mighty protest from its main rival, the PML-N. Imran Khan kept sitting quietly when the lawmakers holding Nawaz Sharif’s posters occupied the space in front of the Speaker’s dais and at times came close to him. Shahbaz Sharif joined sloganeering, standing on his seat.

In the face of such impending protest, the treasury benches will be required to be charitable, and, in the words of Imran Khan, will have to keep their swords in sheaths. If the PTI will not be willing to stomach all kinds of tirade, it will be in trouble and such attitude will provoke more mayhem.

The loose nature of the multiparty Pakistan Alliance for Fair and Free Elections (PAFFE) stood exposed. The Pakistan People’s Party legislators did not join the PML-N in the sloganeering and remained seated. While the PML-N was belligerent, the PPP was lenient, demonstrating its policy of not becoming hostile although it has announced to protest. Because of different approaches of the PML-N and PPP, the PAFFE is unlikely to become a sturdy force, becoming ominous for the government.

From the opposition benches, Murtaza Javed Abbasi stood out as he was the first one to raise the attacking slogans. He was the only MP, who got the opportunity to give vent to his views twice. “The way Nawaz Sharif is being treated by transporting him in an APC is condemnable; he is not a terrorist but a benefactor of the nation for making Pakistan a nuclear state; it was his political vision that he had allowed the PTI to form government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) although it did not have majority in 2013; and salute to powers which have brought, along with 'lotas' [turncoats], to the House those who cursed parliament.”

In his peculiar soft style, outgoing Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said everything hard-hitting that any other violent opposition MP would have stated. He made several digs on the PTI, recalling tough time during his tenure, emphasising the dignity and honour of the chair at all costs. “I will never use words that will disgrace the Speaker; I even had to swallow allegations like the fake Speaker,” he stated and referred to the PTI MPs’ resignations and their non-acceptance by him for months so that the parliamentary democracy is not disrupted.

The votes secured by PTI nominee Asad Qaisar and opposition representative Khursheed Shah in the Speaker’s election indicated that there were no apparent defections from either side, and hence there was no upset. It appeared that the eight rejected votes were contributed by both sides.

For the last few days, the PTI spokesmen have been claiming that they have mustered the support of 180 plus MPs. Asad Qaisar got 176 votes. On the other hand, the opposition parties’ strength was calculated to be 150 MPs. Khursheed Shah clinched 146 votes.

When Ayaz Sadiq was elected as the Speaker in 2013, he had bagged 258 votes. After his re-election following his unseating, he was elected to the same office by getting 268 votes.

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