KARACHI, June 20: Contrary to the expectations of a strong reaction over the Supreme Court verdict declaring Yousuf Raza Gilani ineligible to hold the office of prime minister and remain a member of the National Assembly, lawmakers in the Sindh Assembly on Wednesday exhibited a subdued posture on the issue.

However, Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon and Pakistan People’s Party MPA Ferheen Mughal spoke out their mind on the issue.

While Ms Mughal was speaking on the decision of the apex court, Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza, who was presiding over the session, asked her to restrict her speech to the point of order. As it was a budget session, she said, they could express their feelings on the decision of the apex court during a general discussion on the budget.

Shama Mithani, Imdad Pitafi and Sikander Shoro also praised the vision of the party leadership in accepting the SC verdict with grace and avoiding confrontation.

Recalling the verdict, Mr Memon lamented that the Supreme Court had declared the prime minister of 180 million people ineligible. The PPP despite its reservations had accepted the decision for the sake of continuation of democracy, he added.

He said the (deposed) prime minister had two options: either to follow the “instruction of a few judges” or to abide by the constitution. Under Article 248 of the constitution, the president enjoyed immunity and accordingly Mr Gilani followed the constitution instead of writing a letter to the Swiss authorities.

The minister said on Tuesday night a few political elements were heard saying that no one had reacted to the decision as the PPP no longer enjoyed the people’s support. “We avoided reaction over the verdict because we did not want to spark confrontation between institutions.

Had it not been so, the PPP could take out similar rallies from each and every corner as was staged on May 12 at Obaro. But the PPP leadership demonstrated political maturity and avoided confrontation.

Mr Memon said the name of Yousuf Raza Gilani would be written in history in golden letters and he would always be remembered as a national hero.

Ferheen Mughal said the PPP was expecting a similar decision from the court. But as per its policy, party activists did not attack the court.

Imdad Pitafi of the PPP also said the party had accepted the SC verdict to avert a confrontation between the institutions.

Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza, who had earlier called the house in order at 11.10am, asked the lawmakers that instead of speaking on a point of order, they could express their views during a general discussion on the budget.

Transport Minister Akhtar Jadoon of the PPP, who was the first speaker of the day to participate in the general discussion, said Sindh was the first province where measures had been taken to set up driving schools of European standards. The schools would be set up in Karachi, Hyderabad and Larkana on a private-public partnership, he said. He added that in Hyderabad, a bus terminal complex was being built on 18 acres.

The minister said at least 10,000 buses were required for Karachi and a sustainable transport system was being worked out.

Syed Manzar Imam of the MQM highlighted the need for a special development package and the establishment of a university in Orangi Town as was done in Malir and Lyari towns. He also asked for an early approval of sanctioned new estimates for the Qatar Hospital, whose building was ready to become operational. Both residents of Orangi and its surrounding localities would benefit from the hospital, he said.

Ferheen Mughal said the PPP government had provided jobs to thousands of youths and had launched many development programmes for empowerment of women and reduction of poverty.

Sikandar Ali Shoro of the PPP said that despite increasing allocations in the budget for education, the quality of education was declining. In rural areas, he said, scores of schools were non-operational while buildings of many girls schools had no students, no teachers.

Zareen Majeed of the MQM highlighted the need to bring agriculture income into the tax net, saying there was a need to make income from every source taxable.

She said if the government had taken concrete steps during the last four years, such issues as poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, law and order, loadshedding and energy crisis could have been resolved.

Syed Bachal Shah of the PPP stressed the need for introducing a health insurance policy for the people.

Rana Abdul Sattar of the Pakistan Muslim League (Functional) said staging protests or walkouts from assembly sessions was no remedy to the ongoing law and order situation, which called for de-weaponisation of the city.

Saleem Khurshid Khokhar of the PPP demanded special allocations for development works in localities with non-Muslim populations.

Shama Mithani of the PPP highlighted the need to build institutions of liver treatment on the pattern of kidney centers. She also stressed the need for legislation to limit the age for surgeons.

Tahir Qureshi of the MQM called for introducing checks and balances on utilisation of development funds. He said most funds for the annual development programme lapsed because their utilisation depended on bureaucrats. He also suggested increase of lawmakers development funds from Rs60 million to Rs100 million.

At the conclusion of the speech at 3pm, the chair adjourned the session till 9am on Friday.


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