KARACHI: Sindh Minister for Education Nisar Ahmed Khuhro has admitted that "a large number of fake appointments were made in the education department during the previous tenure of the PPP government" but shied away from giving an exact number of such appointments which the opposition members put at a colossal 30,000.

He said that action was being taken against the officers concerned responsible for the serious irregularity but no action was planned against former education minister Pir Mazharul Haq.

Mr Khuhro was responding to questions by different legislators during the question hour about the education department at the Sindh Assembly’s session on Friday, which was first chaired by speaker Agha Siraj Durrani and later by deputy speaker Shehla Raza.

Towards the end of the question hour, heated verbal exchanges were made between the treasury and the opposition benches and the assembly depicted a scene from the proverbial fish market when Mr Khuhro raised objection to a remark passed by a legislator of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

Pakistan Muslim League-Functional legislator Nusrat Abbasi had earlier asked if it was true that 30,000 fake appointments had been made in the education department.

Mr Khuhro replied without either endorsing or rejecting the huge figure and said that "a large number of bogus appointments of teaching and non-teaching staff had been made beyond the sanctioned strength" and without completing legal formalities as laid down in the recruitment rules by former directors of school education Karachi in connivance with district officers during 2012–13.

He said that 12 officers had been suspended over misconduct and show-cause notices had been served on them under the Removal from Service (Special Powers) Sindh Ordinance 2000.

The officers are: Attaullah Bhutto, Shamsuddin Dal, Mumtaz Ali Shaikh, Ahmed Nawaz Naizi, Bashir Ahmed Niazi, Ms Farnaz Riaz, Abdul Jabbar Dayo, Abdul Latif Mughal, Musharaf Ali, Liaquat Ali Solangi, Imran Ali Solangi and Naveed Ahmed.

Mr Khuhro said that the suspended officers as well as those who were appointed by them had moved the courts and the government was defending its actions against them.

To another question by Ms Abbasi, the minister said that as against teaching posts of 1,400 in Karachi, 6,000 appointments had been made and against 2,900 posts of non-teaching staff 4,000 had been recruited.

He said in answer to a question that there was no proof the officers had taken bribe to make the excess appointments without following the procedure. Asked if any action had been taken against the former education minister, Pir Mazharul Haq, Mr Khuhro said that no proof of irregularity was found against him either as all formalities – issuing appointment letters, offer letters, etc – were processed by the officers concerned.

He did not respond to a question if it did not amount to connivance on the part of the former minister then it was sheer inefficiency that he failed to detect such a serious and large-scale breach of rules to make 30,000 fake appointments.

Answering a question by MQM legislator Khalid Ahmed that the irregularity was so serious that not only action should be taken against the minister concerned but the chief minister should also accept responsibility for the recruitment of thousands of incompetent people without following the laid down procedure.

Mr Khuhro replied by objecting to the use of the term ‘incompetent’ by the MQM legislator and said the people of Sindh should not be referred to as such. The objection angered all MQM legislators who stood up and started talking simultaneously. Information minister Sharjeel Memon also stood up to second Mr Khuhro’s stand and in the meantime some treasury members started thumping the desks.

Ms Raza, who was chairing the session at that time, asked the opposition members to sit down and calmly listen to the ministers, by remarking that media would call it a fish market. But the legislators did not listen to her and she adjourned the session for 10 minutes after declaring the time for the question hour was over.

Earlier the legislators, including MQM’s Moeen Pirzada, had complained that the written replies were incomplete but Mr Khuhro insisted the replies were complete.

Responding to a question by MQM’s Heer Soho about the bills passed "by the assembly for the establishment of universities over the past five years," the written reply gave names of only five public sector universities and on a supplementary question the minister said the bills regarding some other private universities were also passed but he insisted the written reply was complete. Ms Raza agreed with the legislators that incomplete information was provided and that complete information be given.

To another question by Ms Soho which asked specifically "district-wise number of schools which were provided facilities between 2010–13," the written reply did give the number of schools but did not give the district-wise breakup.

But the minister still insisted that complete information had been provided and surprisingly, speaker Durrani, who was presiding at that time, agreed with the minister. Mr Khuhro later started to read out names of the districts in which schools had been rehabilitated.

The written reply said that rehabilitation of a total of 2,659 schools had been undertaken since 2010 – 11 and 498 of these were still under construction. Out of the 2,659 schools, 319 schools were shelter-less, 1,219 did not have boundary walls and 1,561 were without toilets while others lacked some other basic facilities, it said.

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