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MPAs told not to ask questions in English


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A view of the Sindh Assembly. — File photo
A view of the Sindh Assembly. — File photo

KARACHI: Sindh Assembly deputy speaker Shehla Raza directed the provincial lawmakers on Friday not to ask questions in English. Her advice was meant to save from embarrassment her colleagues who did not appear to have adequate knowledge of the language.

The directive was issued when a minister faced difficulty in reading out the answers or in responding to supplementary questions asked in English during the question hour.

Ms Raza was presiding over the session in the absence of speaker Agha Siraj Khan Durrani. She gave the directive after a noisy scene, punctuated with loud laughter from fellow legislators more than once, was created by some legislators who asked questions in English and insisted that the minister answer in that language.

The question hour was related to the Zakat and Ushr department and the minister in the line of fire was Dost Ali Rahimoon. All the three questions taken up during the session were asked by Nusrat Seher Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional.

First Ms Abbasi asked Mr Rahimoon to read out the written reply, which after much hesitation and the lawmaker’s insistence, he read out slowly.

Sensing the minister’s unease at answering the questions, Muttahida Qaumi Movement legislator Sumeeta Afzal asked a simple question but in English, putting the minister in a more difficult position. The MQM’s Heer Ismail Soho and Mohammad Hussain also asked questions that the minister found difficult to answer.

Fellow ministers and legislators Sharjeel Enam Memon, Jam Mahtab Dahar, Nisar Khuhro, Taimur Talpur and others, sensing minister Mr Rahimoon’s unease, stood up and started talking on his behalf, but the lawmakers asking the questions demanded that the minister, who was supposed to be more knowledgeable about his departmental matters, should himself respond.

At that time Ms Raza came to the minister’s rescue and directed that questions should not be asked in English unless she allowed it, and only Sindhi and Urdu be used for asking questions in the assembly.

In another question, Ms Abbasi asked about the specific law under which the Sindh Zakat Council chairman held the post for a third term as he had already completed two terms as provided under the law. There was no provision for the third term under Section 12 (4) of the Zakat and Ushr Act 2001, she added.

The minister read out the law referred to by her which said: “the chairman and members of the council, other than ex officio members, shall hold the office for a term of three years and shall be eligible for re-appointment for another term.”

The written reply said retired Justice Zahid Kurban Alavi had been reappointed under sub-section (3) of Section 12 of the Sindh Zakat and Ushr Act 2011 and that the law did not specifically restrict reappointment of chairman and members of the council for only two terms. But Ms Abbasi was not satisfied with the answer and wanted a law to be quoted which specifically allowed appointment for a third term also. When the argument dragged on with the minister being unconvincing, Ms Raza again came to his rescue and asked the minister to get a written reply from the department and provide it to the assembly.

Answering another question asked by Ms Abbasi regarding non-regularisation of Amleen-i-Zakat (Zakat paid staff) working on a contract basis since 1980, the minister said there were around 800 Zakat paid staffers, who had been working under the Central Zakat Council before devolution under the 18th amendment to the constitution. He said their regularisation could not be made due to financial constraints. At present Rs9,000 per month is paid to a Zakat clerk. However, after regularisation the financial impact would increase tremendously on the provincial exchequer.

Responding to another question by Ms Abbasi regarding collection of Zakat and Ushr by the federal government even after the 18th amendment, the minister said that at a meeting on July 27, 2012 the four provincial chief secretaries had decided that collection of Zakat shall remain centralised till 2015. The collection of Ushr was the responsibility of the provincial revenue department. After collection the funds were deposited in the account of the respective district Zakat fund. However, the Sindh government vide letter GS/14-87/2000(SO-II)604 dated Feb 3, 2000 deferred the collection of Ushr.

Referring to Thursday’s experience when she had ordered – an order that she had to take back within minutes after the intervention of her senior party colleagues – PML-F legislator Ms Abbasi out of the house which followed a walkout by her party colleagues and PML-N legislators, deputy speaker Shehla Raza announced on Friday that she would never order the shutting off of the microphone of any legislator and would never send any member out of the assembly.

Comments (15) Closed

pittman way Sep 21, 2013 07:42am

I think it's more laughable on the part of M.P.A. who asked question in english,surely they must be knowing that knowing english is not a barometer/scalehow clever/intellectual you are,infact they have made themselves fool and became a laughing stock as surely they must be knowing that there are many legislative assemblies where people speak in their native language as quite recently in our neighbouring country China the whole session of people congress went for ten days in their own language.

Anees Sep 21, 2013 07:55am

Time wasted in rubbish things.

Saeed Rehman Sep 21, 2013 11:08am

Why are these folks asking questions in English language in the first place? English is not the national language. Last I checked URDU is the native language and everybody is expected to speak and understand the spoken language. Perhaps it dates back to the colonial era where Brits came and dominated the southeast Asia. Third world countries like ours, it appears to give people a pseudo-status, whereby they try to ascertain that they are highly educated and are part of the upper class population. As sickening as it may sound, it holds true in our society. Urdu, if spoken properly ( which you seldom hear ) is a beautiful language. It contains every element that is required for an official language. So go ahead Speak Urdu and communicate well with your countrymen and be proud of it. Leave English language where it belongs( Their native countries. )

N K Ali Sep 21, 2013 12:58pm

The Sindh Assembly is becoming a parliamentary parody of a popular movie, "The three stooges." Salams

chacha Sep 21, 2013 02:17pm

Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza is most definitely one of the most stupidest people alive. It is apparent from her frequent appearances on TV shows and now she's proved it yet again.

ghulam abbas Sep 21, 2013 02:54pm

In Pakistan English language is considered as knowledge rather than a tool to deliver knowledge. The same was depicted in Sindh Assembly.

Ijaz Ahmed Sep 21, 2013 07:30pm

I agree with the speaker that only the national language Urdu should be spoken at the Assembly . It should be standard at all Assemblies and the Parliament. I do not like people and many in media when the they start the sentence in Urdu and finish in English. Not sure what are they trying to prove. In America they speak English because its their native language, Same I found in China and Japan and France and Germany. Native language is not an impediment to development of the country. Thank you.

Khan Sep 21, 2013 09:06pm

" advice was meant to save from embarrassment her colleagues who did not appear to have adequate knowledge of the language."

Since when did not knowing English become an embarrassment

Sayyar Sep 21, 2013 09:15pm

I think MQM members should use there Native language URDU.

syd0071 Sep 22, 2013 03:08am

Show how illiterate our politician are. What a shame.

RK Jain Sep 22, 2013 09:13am

In today's day and age, translation of the question and answer is readily available. It is ridiculous to bar asking questions or giving answers in any language. What happens in National Assembly where members may speak the language of their province only? Don't list in the past.

Talha Sep 22, 2013 10:38am

It is a pity that law makers are more concerned about each others' prowess at one language or the other rather than with the welfare of the masses - a responsibility they have themselves asked to be placed on their shoulders.

They will surely be answerable for it.

asif Sep 22, 2013 01:38pm

strong textWe r pakistani and our native language is urdu not english so I think in assembly questioning is allowed in urdu instead of english but its vital the minister of any must have the knowlede

Mansoor Sep 22, 2013 03:00pm

No matter all of language but information should be update and complete. It should be start language classes for our parlimenterian !

ivehadit Sep 23, 2013 06:18am

English is a global language and it's imperative our officials know how to read and write in it.