Punjab Assembly legislators take oath amid protest

Assembly set to elect new speaker, deputy speaker today n Mohammad Ahmad Khan to be PML-N candidate for PA speaker n Session commenced after a delay of two hours, 20 minutes n 321 members including 193 members from PML-N, 98 from SIC, 23 from PPP, 10 from PML-Q, five from IPP take oath.


LAHORE   -  In a tumultuous start to govern­ment formation in Punjab, the newly elected Punjab Assembly members took their oaths on Friday amidst disruption and protest from the PTI-affiliated members who attended the maiden assembly session under the umbrella of the Sunni Itte­had Council (SIC), a religious organization that failed to se­cure a single provincial seat in the February 8 polls. 

With a heavy police contingent surrounding the Assembly prem­ises, the session commenced after a delay of two hours and 20 minutes. Unprecedented dis­ruption ensued, even during the recitation of the Holy Quran, as PTI-backed independent mem­bers reacted to slogans from the guests’ gallery, igniting a distur­bance in the House.

Despite attempts by the speaker to proceed with the oath-taking process, the PTI-backed members obstructed proceedings, citing concerns about the allocation of reserved seats and the alleged arrest of Mian Aslam Iqbal, the nominee for the office of chief minister. They also stated that their mem­bers were being stopped from entering the assembly premises. 

Some members encircled the speaker’s podium, preventing the session from proceeding smoothly. Rana Aftab Ahmad Khan, leading the PTI members from the opposition benches, sought to address the issue of reserved seats but was denied the opportunity by the speaker, who urged the legal require­ment of taking the oath first. He also made assurances regard­ing the investigation into Mian Aslam Iqbal’s alleged arrest and pledged to issue his pro­duction orders if required for the next day’s sitting. 

However, the turmoil persisted as intense sloganeering ensued, rendering the speaker power­less to restore order. Efforts by Malik Mohammad Ahmad Khan to pacify the opposition benches proved futile, mirroring scenes from 2022 when PTI mem­bers obstructed the election of Hamza Shahbaz as Pun­jab chief minister following Sardar Usman Buzdar’s resig­nation at that time. 

Unable to maintain order in the House, the speaker was compelled to adjourn the sit­ting for 45 minutes. When the session resumed after over an hour and a half, a relative calm pervaded the House, achieved through backdoor negotia­tions between the opposing sides during the interval. The atmosphere was markedly dif­ferent, reflecting a change in the stance of the PTI members. 

Subsequently, the speaker administered the oath to the members, who signed the reg­ister roll in alphabetical or­der thereafter. Former Federal Minister for Information, Mar­riyum Auranzeb, also took her oath as a member of the Pun­jab Assembly for the first time. She sat next to Maryam Nawaz Sharif in the House. 

In total, 321 members took the oath on Friday out of the total 371 members. Among them were 193 members from the PML-N, 98 from the SIC, 23 from PPP, 10 from PML-Q, five from IPP, and one each from TLP and PML-Zia.

Before the formal proceed­ings began, Maryam Nawaz, the PML-N’s nominee for the chief ministerial slot, entered the House alongside par­ty members amidst slogans of “Shair” echoing through­out the chamber and from the guests’ gallery. The PML-N members-elect carried plac­ards adorned with pictures of their party leader, Mian Nawaz Sharif, while Maryam Nawaz herself held her father’s por­trait as she took her seat. Applause erupted from the guests’ gallery, where a con­siderable number of PML-N workers were present to greet their leader.

The SIC members, under­stood to be PTI-backed, at­tended the session wear­ing black bands around their arms, symbolizing protest against alleged election rig­ging and the non-allocation of reserved seats by the Election Commission.

Meanwhile, in a change of mind, the PML-N reversed its earlier decision on Friday and asked Mohammad Ahmad Khan to submit his nomina­tion papers for the position of speaker of the Punjab Assem­bly. Initially, the PML-N’s par­liamentary party had put for­ward the name of Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman for this role. Concurrently, the Sunni Itte­had Council nominated Ahmad Khan Bhachar as their candi­date for the speaker’s office.

For the position of deputy speaker, the PML-N nominat­ed Malik Zaheer Iqbal Channar, while the Sunni Ittehad Coun­cil put forward Riaz Qureshi as their candidate. The Secretary of the Assembly, Amir Habib, later confirmed the approval of the nomination papers for all candidates. 

The election for the offices of speaker and deputy speak­er is scheduled to take place today (Saturday) through a se­cret ballot in the Assembly ses­sion at 4pm. Earlier, before the commencement of the session, outgoing Speaker Mohammad Sibtain Khan expressed his concerns to the media regard­ing the conduct of the speaker and deputy speaker elections in the absence of a complete House. He highlighted that the Election Commission had not yet notified the election of 27 members for reserved seats. Additionally, he affirmed his commitment to ensuring the unhindered entry of Sunni It­tehad Council members into the Assembly.

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