Bilawal irked by Siyal’s controversial remarks in Sindh Assembly

KARACHI: A day after an incendiary speech of Pakistan Peoples Party lawmaker Sohail Anwar Siyal on the floor of the Sindh Assembly, that contained ethnic overtones and attracted serious criticism from the opposition, party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari took exception and conveyed to him that such a diatribe would not be tolerated in future.

“We have been feeding the ones who came from India ... we provided them refuge ... gave them home, lands and food [when Mohajirs migrated after partition],” said Mr Siyal in response to the speech of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan lawmaker Mohammad Hussain.

Mr Hussain had criticised the PPP as well as late former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in his speech in the Sindh Assembly on Thursday.

Mr Siyal, a former home minister and an MPA from Larkana, chose to take an ethnic line in his speech and also criticised the opposition party.

“Those who were given refuge in Sindh are today speaking against Sindh. Their [MQM] runaway leader delivered speeches against Pakistan. First they must admit themselves as Pakistanis and as Sindhis, and then criticise others,” he said without naming MQM’s London-based founder Altaf Hussain during Thursday’s session.

MQM’s Dr Sattar warns of protest if PPP lawmaker fails to apologise

Although Mr Siyal’s speech attracted applause from the treasury benches in the assembly, it did not impress the PPP chairman.

A senior party leader while talking to Dawn confirmed that the PPP chairman had conveyed his displeasure on Mr Siyal’s speech through proper channel.

“The PPP chairman is not impressed and happy with that,” he said. “He has strongly conveyed his thoughts to the legislator concerned and warned him that it should not happen again.”

He said that Mr Bhutto-Zardari had asserted that the PPP was the party of the federation and believed in unity of all people regardless of their ethnic, religious and community backgrounds.

“The message should be loud and clear for all members of the party in all assemblies and the Senate that it should not be their agenda to toe any ethnic line even against their political opponents,” the leader said.

Siyal stands by remarks

Against the backdrop of Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s displeasure, Mr Siyal told reporters outside the Sindh Assembly on Friday that his speech was in response to MQM-P’s Mohammad Hussain and that he stood by the remarks he made in the assembly.

“I am not against the Urdu-speaking people ... my speech was wrongly portrayed [in media],” he said. “I am against the ideology that was behind incidents like May 12. I stand by my speech.”

He said attempts were being made to pit Sindhi and Urdu-speaking people against each other.

Sattar demands apology

While the MQM-P, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Pak Sarzameen Party, etc condemned what they called Mr Siyal’s anti-Mohajir remarks, the strongest of all reactions came from disgruntled MQM-P leader Dr Farooq Sattar who warned of a protest if the PPP lawmaker did not offer an apology.

He asked PPP chairman Bhutto-Zardari to take notice of his provocative statement and asked him to apologise.

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday night at the Karachi Press Club, Dr Sattar said that the Urdu-speaking people would not fall prey to any conspiracy.

“We will hold a peaceful protest demonstration on Monday [Oct 1] if Sohail Siyal doesn’t apologise over his remarks,” he said.

In a surprise move, Dr Sattar came to Mr Hussain’s defence when he criticised Mr Siyal for calling the London-based founder an absconder and questioned why the PPP leadership had visited London in the past to hold negotiations with the same absconder.

“Did Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari not flee the country?” he said.

He said that Mr Siyal insulted the founders of Pakistan and the Mohajir community, who left their ancestral homes and sacrificed millions of lives for the sake of a new country.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2018

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