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MQM lawmakers boycott PA session over custodial death of party activist

Opposition demands constitution of probe committee comprising MPAs;

prisons minister says his department will furnish report in one week

Following a vociferous protest over the custodial death of a Muttahida Qaumi Movement activist a day earlier, MQM lawmakers along with other Opposition legislators boycotted proceedings of the provincial assembly on Friday.

None of the items on the day’s agenda could be taken up as the assembly speaker, merely after 29 minutes of the start of proceedings, adjourned the session till Monday morning owing to the protest and boycott by opposition lawmakers over the death of MQM worker, Muhammad Hussain, at the central prison.

As the commotion and boycott marred proceedings of the house, the question hour pertaining to the Sindh Wildlife Department, call-attention notices of different opposition lawmakers, and privilege and adjournment motions moved by opposition MPAs could not be taken up for consideration by the house.

The MQM-led opposition agitated mainly to press upon the treasury benches to constitute a committee comprising members of the provincial assembly to investigate the custodial death of their party’s worker.

At the outset of proceedings, Sindh Assembly opposition leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan raised the issue of MQM activist Muhammad Hussain’s overnight death at the Karachi central jail.

He said Hussain was the seventh MQM worker to pass away in the custody of law enforcers, while a number of his political associates remain missing. He demanded that the house should form a committee to investigate the incident.

The provincial law and prisons minister, Ziaul Hassan Lanjar, said his department would investigate the incident on its own before any such committee was constituted by the house. He assured the protesting lawmakers in the house that a probe committee to be constituted by the government would furnish a report in one week’s time as afterwards a judicial inquiry could also be conducted in this regard.

He said the opposition had adopted a practice of unduly agitating in the house on every issue.

Sindh Parliamentary Affairs Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said it should be ascertained whether the MQM activist passed away naturally or he died of torture in the prison. He said the provincial prisons minister should investigate the incident.

As opposition lawmakers again stood in the house to raise their voice on the incident, speaker Agha Siraj Khan Durrani advised them to resume their seats.

The opposition, legislators, however, continued their protest in the house and later walked out from the assembly’s hall. They demanded of the government to immediately constitute a committee comprising lawmakers of the provincial assembly to probe the matter.

As the speaker took up the question hour, the agenda of the day could not be discussed as the opposition lawmakers who had submitted questions and call-attention notices were not present in the house.

Media talk

Later on, talking to the media after boycotting the session, MQM lawmaker Faisal Sabzwari said the opposition would continue with its protest in the house on Monday if a probe committee, comprising members of the assembly as desired by his party, was not constituted till that time.

He said the Sindh Assembly could constitute a committee to probe into such instances given the precedent that the Senate had formed a functional committee on human rights.

Sabzwari said his party would be compelled to go to the central prison to inquire about the death of the party activist if a probe committee was not formed by the government.

He thanked lawmakers of other political parties in the house to join hands with his party in their agitation drive on the issue.

The MQM leader said the government should not shy away from the proposal of constituting a committee comprising MPAs to investigate such instances as his party workers were being subjected to torture in the central jail. He said the government should not compel his party to visit jails and inspect the situation there on its own.

Sabzwari said the MQM could not remain aloof any more to the sufferings of incarcerated party activists as “they are not unclaimed citizens of the country”.

In the recent instance, he said, the deceased activist was pronounced dead on arrival when he was taken to hospital from the prison after deteriorating of his health condition.

The MQM leader said Hussain’s death had occurred at the same time when the Sindh prisons minister was on a visit to the jail as otherwise the prisons minister should have instantly ordered an inquiry to ascertain the cause of his death.

Sabzwari said the governance systems in the province had collapsed in various sectors, including the education department as it had failed to curb the use of unfair means during the secondary and higher secondary annual examinations.

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