KARACHI: Setting up a centralised authority is required that could give permission and issue no objection certificates to organise dramas and stage shows, said Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon on Monday.
He was responding to lawmakers’ questions during the question hour which pertained to the women development and information departments in the Sindh Assembly’s Monday session that was chaired by Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani and began over an hour and 20 minutes behind the scheduled time of 10am, as mentioned in the order of the day.
Sindh Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Sikandar Ali Mandhro responded to questions pertaining to the women development department as Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, who holds the portfolio, was not present in the assembly to respond to the legislators’ queries.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) legislator Khalid Ahmed inquired why the number of dramas and stage shows had declined between 2008 and 2013 during the Pakistan Peoples Party’s government despite the party being considered to be liberal and a promoter of arts.
Minister Memon responded that currently different departments — like the culture department, information department, excise and taxation department — gave permission and NOCs so the organisers sometimes got permission from one department and sometimes from the other. So he thought that a centralised authority, preferably under the culture department, be set up so that centralised information was available and people also knew from where to get the permission/NOC.
A retired bureaucrat and currently a Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) legislator Mahtab Akbar Rashdi said that a law was made during the dictatorial regime of Gen Zia that scripts of dramas etc. were sent to the information department to see if they were according to government policy. Also, officers of the department would then visit theatres to see whether the production was according to the approved script. She demanded that such a draconian law be repealed as it was in conflict with the freedom of expression.
In his written answer to the question, the minister said that 16 dramas and stage shows were held in 2008 while in 2009 only three such programmes were held. In 2010 there were only five programmes; in 2011 and 2012 only two, and in 2013 only four such programmes were organised.
In response to a question by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) legislator Samar Ali Khan regarding access to the records available at the archives department, Minister Memon said that a lot of valuable records including old maps, history books, etc. was available at the department that was located in Clifton. It was open to the public, but he regretted that very few people visited the department. He said that at times foreigners, diplomats and oversees researchers came and carried out research with the help of these records. Mr Memon also said that the record of the Sindh Assembly which had been taken to Lahore had been brought back to the archives department and urged legislators to come and study it. Speaker Durrani said that since it was the Sindh Assembly’s record so it should be present in the assembly; the archives department could make a copy and keep it for record. Mr Memon said he would discuss the issue with the speaker in his chamber.
MQM legislator Sardar Ahmed pointed out that the library set up in the historic Frere Hall was in a poor state and the condition of many valuable, old and rare books was deteriorating. Minister Memon said that Frere Hall was a historic building and was under the control of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC); he said he would look into the matter as to ascertain what was being done with the building. He would also look in to the issue of protecting the historic and old books of the library and inquire whether the archives department could provide any assistance.
Speaker Durrani on the occasion noted that there were a large number of old and historic buildings, many of them in a poor condition, in the city and that government should take the legislators there. This would not only highlight the buildings but hopefully with the public focus on these heritage structures, efforts would also be made to improve their condition and these precious structures were protected for the future generations.
Responding to a question by PTI legislator Dr Seema Zia regarding recruitments done in the information department during 2013-14, Mr Memon said that no recruitments had been done in the information department in this time duration. However, the archives department had printed two advertisements for recruitments in BPS-1 to BPS-15 and 18 people had been recruited with the approval of the competent authority, ie the chief minister. Recruitments had been done according to the urban and rural quota.
Responding to a question by PTI legislator Khurrum Sher Zaman regarding display centres to showcase the handicrafts of women artisans, Minister Dr Sikander Mandhro said that only one such centre was operating in collaboration with an NGO – Home Net at State Life Building No 4, near PIDC House. Other such centres are to be set up soon, he added.
In reply to another question by the same legislator regarding day care centres, the minister said that currently only one day care centre was operational in the province at Karachi where 50 children — aged between two months and four years — were looked after and taken care of. He agreed with PTI legislators Dr Zia and Mr Khan that more such centres were needed and said that the government planned to set up such centres in various cities soon.
In response to a question by Mr Sher Zaman regarding hostels for working women, the minister said that one building had been obtained from the federal government in Benazirabad and it was being repaired and hopefully would be operational soon and provide subsidised accommodation to working women. He said that the government had planned to set up one such hostel in Karachi during 2014-15 and more such hostels would also be set up in various other towns including Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana etc as and when resources were available.
PPP legislators Khairunnisa Mughal, Irum Khalid, Shamim Mumtaz, Dr Sohrab Sarki; MQM’s Khwaja Izhar-ul-Hassan, Saleem Rajput, and others also participated in the question hour.
Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2015