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Sardar Rasmesh Singh Arora, the first Sikh member of the Provincial Assembly since 1947.

Sardar Rasmesh Singh Arora, the first Sikh member of the Provincial Assembly since 1947.

LAHORE: Saturday marked a historic milestone for the Sikh community in the province. A Sikh representative, for the first time since 1947, took oath as a member of the provincial assembly in Punjab at its first session.

He was nominated on a seat reserved for minorities on a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ticket.

Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora walked into the assembly hall wearing a traditional white shalwar kamees and an orange turban. Several parliamentarians and assembly officials shook hands with him and welcomed him. Several of his family and friends were there to support him as well.

“As the first Sikh to have taken oath as a parliamentarian in the Punjab Assembly since 1947, I am absolutely delighted to be part of this august house. The position certainly comes with a lot of responsibility. I will not only be representing my own community but all the minorities in the province,” Arora told The Express Tribune after taking the oath.

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Arora hails from Narowal and has been associated with the Pakistan Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee.

“PML-N’s priorities include eliminating load shedding and reviving the economy,” he said, minorities will benefit from these.

Arora said that he would work for the rehabilitation of historical and religious sites of the Sikhs. “Sites sacred to other religions will also be restored through the Evacuee Trust Property Board,” he said.

He said work on the reformation of the Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee was already underway, adding that it would be made more effective and efficient. “I will do the best I can to serve minorities. That is my aim and my party’s policy. That is why I’m here and that is what my oath was about,” he said.

Parliamentarian drives in on a motorbike

While most parliamentarians were seen reaching the assembly chambers on expensive SUVs and luxury cars, one of them chose a different mode of transport. Maulana Ghiyasud Din, a PML-N MPA from Shakargarh, drove a motorbike, with a green number plate reading MPA, to the assembly building.

“There is need to promote simplicity in our culture. That is why I drove a motorbike to attend the first assembly session. We need to cut down on expenses and solve problems like load shedding as soon as possible,” he said.

The effort towards that end needs to start from day one, he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2013.

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ISLAMABAD: Around 112 parties contested the 2013 elections. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), however, emerged as the largest party – both in terms of the number of seats it won in the National Assembly, and the votes it bagged.

The PML-N fielded 220 candidates for 270 seats in the lower house of parliament. The party won 125 seats and secured 14,794,188 votes, according to the data gathered by the Free and Fair Elections Network (FAFEN).

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) emerged as the second biggest party, securing 7,563,504 votes. Imran Khan fielded 232 candidates. The party, however, only won 27 seats in the National Assembly.

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With 31 seats in the National Assembly, the former ruling party – the Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians (PPPP) – clinched the third position. It received 6,822,958 votes.

The May 11 election was allegedly tainted by a series of anomalies. Independent candidates emerged as the fourth strongest parliamentary force, bagging a total of 5,773,494 votes, and winning 32 seats in the lower house.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) fielded 205 candidates for the National Assembly, but secured 18 seats from Karachi and Hyderabad for the lower house with 2,422,656 votes.

Maulan Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam-Fazl fielded 131 candidates and won 10 seats. The party secured 1,454,907 votes countrywide.

The performance of the once ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid was very unimpressive. In all, the party fielded 53 candidates but won only two National Assembly seats with 1,405,493 votes. The Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, which is limited to Sindh, fielded 28 candidates and won five seats, securing 1,007,761 votes.

The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) fielded 166 candidates but won a dismal three seats from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa only. The JI, allegedly known for its pro-establishment approach for arranging ‘dharnas’ against elected governments in the past, fetched 949,394 votes in the current elections.

Out of the 58 candidates fielded by the Awami National Party (ANP), the former ruling party in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, only one emerged victorious. The ANP managed to get only 450,561 votes. The party says attacks and threats from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was one of the main reasons why it could not carry out its election campaigns effectively.

The Muttahida Deeni Mahaz, an umbrella grouping of several religious parties, could not secure any seat in the lower house. The 87 candidates fielded by the bloc, however, won 359,589 votes.

The Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) won three seats in the National Assembly, fetching 211,989 votes. The party had fielded 30 candidates.

Sheikh Rashid Ahmed’s Awami Muslim League Pakistan fielded 16 candidates and could win only one seat from Rawalpindi. It bagged 93,051 votes. The party with the lowest votes was Pakistan Awami Inqalab with a lone candidate receiving seven votes.

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Nawaz Sharif addresses a convention on Monday. PHOTO

Nawaz Sharif addresses a convention on Monday. PHOTO

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif in his pre-parliamentary address in Lahore on Monday said that if there was an option to talk to the Taliban with the hope of making the country peaceful, they should take it. 

“We have never bad-mouthed anyone in our election campaign,” Sharif said in a slight to his opponents, Express News reported. “We accepted everyone’s mandate.”

“We will help the provincial governments in whatever way, but then there should be an end to the ongoing violence,” the prime minister-elect said.

Nawaz said holding negotiations is the only way to effectively solve problems.

“We have lost several lives, our economy is deteriorating… If Taliban offers us an option to have dialogue, we should take it seriously. Why can’t we talk to the Taliban to make our country peaceful?”

Working on common agenda

He said that affairs of the country should be given precedence over politics.

“All political parties need to work on one common agenda for the betterment of the country and this is what I reiterated when I went to Shaukat Khanum Hospital (to visit Imran Khan),” he added.

PML-N won the highest number of National Assembly seats in the general elections that took place in the country on May 11, establishing a simple majority in the centre. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) who won in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in the elections has formed its own government in the province.

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