PML-F, PML-Q join boycott: Treasury irked by MQM walkout over price hike
KARACHI: Lawmakers belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement led a walkout from the Sindh Assembly on Wednesday against problems being faced by the common man due to a hike in prices of essential commodities, petroleum products and electricity tariff.
The joint opposition comprising legislators of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and PML-Q also left the house to join the MQM walkout.
As soon as the house was called to order at 11.35am with Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza in the chair, the parliamentary party leader of the MQM and provincial minister, Syed Sardar Ahmad, was allowed by the chair to make a statement under Rule 215 of the assembly’s rules of procedure on the floor of the house.
Mr Ahmed said that due to price hike it had become very difficult for the common man, even for the middle class, to make ends meet and according to a central bank report the number of people living below the poverty line in the country had increased from 34 per cent to 40 per cent.
“We belong to a political party espousing the philosophy of striving for the betterment of the poor and we are failing to follow that philosophy, which is a matter of shame (for us). I and my party have reached the conclusion that instead of sitting here it is better to walk out and we are staging a walkout accordingly,” said the MQM parliamentary party leader.
As the MQM lawmakers as well as the opposition members left the house, the chair observed that it was not proper for legislators to stage a walkout after presenting their point of view.
“You are in a coalition government. You ought to listen to others.”
She said the issue raised by Mr Ahmed under Rule 215 was not a policy matter, which could only be given about one’s own ministerial department. Instead of making a statement under Rule 215, the matter could be taken up for discussion through an adjournment motion, she added.
Perturbed by the MQM walkout, some provincial ministers belonging to the ruling Pakistan People’s Party took strong exception to the manner in which their coalition partners left the house after making a mere statement.
Irrigation Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah expressed his surprise over the MQM walkout and observed that the MQM had suddenly become aware of the issue of price hike after spending over two years in the coalition government.
“It does not become a parliamentarian to stage a walkout after making a statement. You return to the house, discuss the issue and sit with us and point out the solution to the problem.”
He regretted that the MQM had never defended the PPP-led government although they were part of the federal and provincial governments.
Provincial ministers Agha Siraj Durrani and Shazia Marri also expressed similar views.
Appreciating National People’s Party MPA Arif Mustafa Jatoi for not joining the walkout, PPP lawmaker Sharjeel Memon said that the assembly was the best forum to discuss ways and means to curb price hike.
Later, the senior minister and parliamentary party leader of the PPP, Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq – along with ministers Rafique Engineer, Zahid Bhurgari and Chief Minister’s Adviser on Information Sharmila Farooqui – held negotiations with the MQM and the joint opposition and managed to bring them back to the house.
Taking the floor of the house, Pir Mazhar thanked the MQM and opposition lawmakers for agreeing to return to the house and said that Mr Ahmad had rightly taken up the issue of price hike, which was not only affecting everyone equally in the country but the world over due to an upward trend in oil and gas prices.
Expressing the need for highlighting government efforts to deal with the issue, he said that Sindh produces gas and oil and the federal government ought to consult it before taking any decision to revise the prices.
“If we jointly take up the issue we would be able to forcefully present our stand before the federal government,” he said.
“We have decided to bring a joint resolution on the issue in the larger interest of the people.”
He offered an apology on behalf of the government if feelings of any members were hurt due to the speeches of any member of the ruling party.
He also asked the chair to expunge objectionable remarks that might have been uttered by any member during the discussion.
MQM’s Deputy Parliamentary Leader Faisal Sabzwari emphasised the need for making concerted efforts and to approach the federal government for solving the issues.
He said that the MQM walkout was not at all for a photo-op, as the party wanted to highlight the issue of the common man.
He also expressed gratitude to the PML-F and the PML-Q for joining the walkout in protest against price spiral and food inflation and for want of justice.
Razzaq Rahimoo of the PML-Q said that the people had elected them to the assembly to discuss their issues. “We have supported good measures of the government and lodge our protest against mistakes.”
Rafique Bhanban of the PML-F said staging a walkout was a democratic tradition to record protest. “There is a democratic dispensation in the country and our party supported the MQM as the price hike is a direct issue affecting people.”
The chair directed the secretary of the assembly, Hadi Bux Buriro, to expunge objectionable remarks from the proceedings passed by anyone after the walkout.
After completion of the business, the chair called it a day at 2pm to reassemble on Thursday at 10am.