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KARACHI: Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Khwaja Izhar-ul-Hassan stressed on Wednesday the immediate need for a home minister who, he said, could concentrate on addressing law and order issues, including street crime, and be available to elected representatives.

Making this demand on a point of order during the assembly session, the first of the new year, Mr Hassan expressed concern over the law and order situation in Sindh with a specific reference to increasing incidents of street crime in Karachi and said the situation demanded that a home minister be appointed immediately.

He said there was a lot of workload on the chief minister who, besides being the chief executive of the province, was also minister of the Anti-Corruption Establishment, finance department as well the home department, which he was “running through the media”. Therefore, it was all the more necessary to appoint a competent MPA as home minister as “there is no dearth of able lawmakers among PPP rank and file”.

Khawaja Izhar termed the conditions in the prisons of the province extremely painful where prisoners were “being treated worse than animals”. Violation of human rights was a routine affair, which is why his party had addressed a press conference to highlight torture and excesses against prisoners. He said: “We have also submitted a resolution on the issue in the house to discuss the matter”.

Corruption issue

Earlier, commenting on the question hour in the assembly, he said at first the anti-corruption department rarely came up for discussion and when it was taken up, there was disturbance in the house. The leader of the opposition said there was no need for a minister for the anti-corruption department until the department was freed from government influence.

He said wherever the National Accountability Bureau and the Rangers took action to check financial corruption in Sindh, the anti-corruption department carried out raids and took away all the records so that no record was available to NAB and Rangers officials.

The leader of the opposition highlighted the need to frame such rules for the anti-corruption department that any private person or the media could file a complaint and on their information action could be initiated against the suspected corrupt person.

Called to order at 11am, one hour behind the scheduled time of 10am, the Sindh Assembly session was presided over by Deputy Speaker Syeda Shehla Raza. It was the first session of the house in 2017 and 29th of the 4th parliamentary year of the current assembly.

The chair nominated Murad Ali Shah (senior), Dr Mohaish Mullani, Syed Sardar Ahmad and Mehtab Akbar Rashdi as the panel of chairmen to preside over the session in the absence of the speaker and the deputy speaker.

The adjournment motion of Nusrat Sehar Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional regarding the establishment of new medical colleges in spite of the Aseefa and Mahar medical college issues, which was on the order of the day, was termed non-maintainable on technical grounds by the chair, which ruled it out of order.

Earlier, Senior Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nisar Ahmad Khuhro opposed it quoting rules and technical flaws in the motion.

Before taking up The Sindh Zakat and Ushr (Amendment) Bill 2016, which was on the agenda, Mr Khuhro drew the attention of the chair to the inordinate delay in reporting back the recommendations of the standing committee on the bill sent to the committees concerned. In this connection, he recalled that the report of The Sindh Payment of Wages Bill 2015, which was referred to the standing committee for consideration on Feb 19 last year, had not been received though 11 months had passed.

He made a verbal motion to the house about making it obligatory on the standing committees to report back their recommendations on the bill within two weeks which was referred to them, otherwise the bill should be recalled from the committee for consideration by the entire house. This motion was approved with the ruling of the chair.

The chair also directed the standing committee to refer The Sindh Payment of Wages Bill 2015 to the house in Thursday’s session.

The chair also informed the house that the governor had given his consent to The Sindh Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

With the completion of the agenda, the house was adjourned at 1.20pm to reassemble on Thursday at 10 am.

Rangers’ powers

Earlier, before proceeding to the house, talking to the media MQM Parliamentary Party Leader Syed Sardar Ahmad said the situation demanded that the federal and Sindh governments sat together to resolve the issue of extending powers to the Rangers.

He suggested that the Rangers should not be given unrestricted powers, but specific powers only. He said if the Rangers would act without taking the chief minister, chief secretary and other officials concerned on board, the powers controversy would continue.

Khurram Sherzaman of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf deplored that his resolution regarding granting powers to the Rangers was not allowed to be taken up in the house. He said the situation of targeted killing and extortion had sharply declined because of the Rangers, but the Sindh government neither wanted to correct the direction of the police nor wanted to give powers to the Rangers.

Nusrat Abbasi of the PML-F said the PPP was insulting the Rangers by making their powers controversial.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2017