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June 17, 2019

Sindh Assembly building’s portion declared sub-jail to intern speaker


June 17, 2019

Much to the distaste of the opposition, the imprisoned Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Khan Durrani has been shifted to his chamber in the assembly building after it was declared a sub-jail.

Durrani was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Islamabad in February this year. Since then, he has been facing NAB investigations for allegedly possessing assets beyond his known sources of income.

After remaining in the NAB custody for less than two months, the speaker was sent to jail in April by an accountability court on judicial remand. It emerged late on Saturday night that Durrani had been shifted from the prison to his chamber in the new Sindh Assembly building after it was declared a sub-jail.

According to Sindh Assembly Secretary GM Umer Farooq, the chamber of the speaker had been declared a sub-jail considering the longer duration of the sittings of the House during the current budget session.

It was inconvenient for the speaker when he was shifted to the prison from the assembling building during the night hours whenever sittings of the House got prolonged, Farooq said. The Sindh law department had sent a recommendation to this effect to the relevant authorities for declaring the speaker’s chamber a sub-jail.

The largest opposition party in the Sindh Assembly, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, strongly objected to the decision of declaring a portion of the Sindh Assembly a sub-jail, saying that it was unprecedented and violated the sanctity of the assembly building.

“I’ve just confirmed from the secretary Sindh Assembly that Speaker Agha Siraj Khan has been shifted to his chamber and the assembly has been declared a sub-jail. This is unacceptable as the most honourable place is now a sub-jail. We are going to raise this issue at all forums and will also approach higher judiciary,” PTI’s Karachi president and MPA Khurrum Sher Zaman tweeted on Saturday.

The Sindh Assembly will start general discussion on the proposed provincial budget for the upcoming financial year 2019-20 on Monday (today) at 2 pm. The House is likely to pass the budget on June 26.

MPAs of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party had also raised the issue of the speaker’s detention on last Wednesday when the House adopted a resolution to condemn the arrest of former president and PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari by NAB and demanded his release.

Speaking on the occasion, PPP lawmakers termed the arrest of the Sindh Assembly speaker in Islamabad an act to frighten the PPP in the province. They said the speaker’s arrest was a dictatorial act but the PPP would not be frightened by such moves.

The current session of the Sindh Assembly was convened on a requisition submitted by some PPP lawmakers on June 10. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah informed media persons during the post-budget press conference on Saturday that Sindh Governor Imran Ismail had not signed the summary sent by him to summon the session of the Sindh Assembly though the Constitution made it binding upon him to act on his advice.

The CM said there should be some method in the Constitution to impeach the governor similar to the method prescribed for impeaching the country’s president in case the governor committed constitutional deviation of such a brazen kind.

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