Opp demands election for vacant deputy speaker seat


–Dawar claims troops opened direct fire on PTM supporters soon after they reached Kharqamar checkpost to record their protest


ISLAMABAD: Days after Qasim Suri’s de-seating as deputy speaker of the National Assembly by an election tribunal of the Balochistan High Court, the opposition has called on Speaker Asad Qaiser to announce an election for the vacant seat.

As the National Assembly reconvened on Monday, Syed Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) drew the speaker’s attention to Rule 11 of the rules governing the house, which states that election for the vacant office of the speaker or deputy speaker should be conducted as early as possible; and if the assembly is in session, should be held in the ongoing session.

Speaker Qaiser has yet to receive a notification for Suri’s removal, and Suri may also seek a stay from the Supreme Court against his removal from the assembly. However, even in the event that he does secure a stay against the tribunal’s decision, Suri will lose his deputy speaker seat as soon as the disqualification notification is issued.

Qamar also asked the speaker to issue production orders of arrested MNAs Asif Ali Zardari, Khurshid Shah and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. He also welcomed MNAs Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, who were recently released after an extended incarceration.

Taking the floor of the House, Mohsin Dawar thanked the opposition for demanding his production orders, especially Bilawal Bhutto and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. He also thanked civil society, social media and other political parties for raising their voice for him and Wazir.

Shedding light on the circumstances of his arrest, he said he and Wazir had gone to express solidarity with those who were protesting against security forces for carrying out search operations and picking up people.

He alleged that when the two reached the Kharqamar checkpost to record their protest, direct fire was opened on the protesters. He alleged that 15 people died on the spot and another 40 were injured in the firing.

He regretted that the FIR was instead registered against him and the protesters for ‘attacking’ the check-post, and denied the charge that the protesters had been carrying weapons. He also said that if it can be proved that the protesters were carrying weapons, “they [the protesters] should be hanged publicly at D Chowk.”

He also questioned why an FIR was registered against him for an IED attack on army troops despite the fact that he had been in jail when the attack happened. “And who is responsible for the killing of the 15 people [protesters] in North Waziristan?” he asked.

He also criticised the media and TV channels for blacking out the Pashtoon Tahaffuz Movement’s (PTM) activities.

He criticised some federal ministers, specifically Murad Saeed, for what he called “issuing statements against us [Wazir and Dawar] in our absence”.

Dawar regretted that their loyalty to the state was being questioned, and warned that time will come that the state would have to prove its loyalty to the people.

“An entire generation of Pakhtuns have become victims of terrorism,” he regretted.

Taking the floor, Communications Minister Murad Saeed recalled that he had stated that Dawar had “connections” with Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS).

“I stand by my words,” he said, recalling that the NDS had refused to hand over the body of abducted police official Tahir Dawar to Pakistani authorities, saying they would hand over the body to Mohsin Dawar only.

Saeed further said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had been striving for peace in Waziristan.

“We opposed [US] drone attacks when you were supporting them,” he said.

Defence Minister Pervez Khattak said he was “ready to mediate in the matter”, but Dawar and Wazir “would have to give assurance that their agenda is Pakistan only.”

He said if the two “will speak against the institution which is a guarantor of peace and security in the country, no one will listen to them.”

He further said the army wants to return from Waziristan. “If your agenda is Pakistan, talks can be held; otherwise not.”

Interior Minister Ijaz Shah made the same overtures for reconciliation.

He said the incident which took place at the checkpoint and the language used by the PTM against the army was documented and reported by the media.

“Even so, we are ready to move forward. If PTM wants to become a mainstream party, it should come out with its demands and I will take those demands to Prime Minister [Imran] Khan,” Shah said.

He said no one was after the PTM, but its supporters will have to prove their allegiance to Pakistan.