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KARACHI: While the provincial assembly adopted all the five government bills which were on the agenda on Wednesday after a discussion, one of them — the Sindh Revenue Board (Amendment) Bill of 2017 — caused tension in the house with senior parliamentarians from both sides of the aisle indulging in a blame game over issues which were not related to the amendment under consideration.

The other four bills which were carried unanimously after a brief discussion were the Sindh Coal Authority (Amendment) Bill 1993, Jacobabad Institute of Medical Sciences (Amendment) Bill, 2017, Sindh Development and Maintenance of Infrastructure Cess Bill, 2017 and Sindh Shaheed Recognition and Compensation (Amendment) Bill, 2017.

Responding to a bitter diatribe launched against the government by the lawmakers from the opposition, particularly Leader of the Opposition Khwaja Izharul Hasan, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that in principle when general principles of bills were under discussion, it ought to be restricted to the amendment, but some friends became emotional when former chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah recounted Pakistan Peoples Party’s ‘achievements’, including the establishment and performance of the Sindh Revenue Board.

Addressing his predecessor, the chief minister said: “Today, the chief minister has recalled the entire history of PPP’s achievement regarding the National Finance Commission award and Sindh revenue collection which became intolerable to our opponents.”

Looking at the leader of the opposition, Mr Shah said those laughing at the treasury benches must not forget their past. The person who was spreading hatred and prejudice in Sindh stood condemned as his own party had deserted him, he said. Addressing MQM parliamentary party leader Syed Sardar Ahmad, the chief minister said: “You are good at remembering past matters but have forgotten easily some events in between. You too had been the finance minister in the province and your government twice carried out amendments to the finance bill but you did not utter anything when after collection of 70 per cent revenue we were given only 23 per cent of it.”

The chief minister said the lawmakers ought to talk on the general principles of the bill on its tax collection aspect. He said taxation was the work of government and the PPP had always kept the interest of Sindh above all. He recalled that he himself wrote a letter to the prime minister about ‘injustice’ with Sindh in the matter of use of gas. He said he referred to Article 158 of the Constitution that said priority was to be given in the use of gas to the people where it was produced. “You did not bring any adjournment motion against these excesses and injustice with Sindh, while we had taken up this matter before the Council of Common Interests as well.”

Mr Shah said that he had to respond to the uncalled for issues, which were raised by the opposition, instead of discussing general principles. But as far as the bill was concerned its aim was to improve its performance, he added.

Taking the floor, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Nisar Khuhro said he had respect for the leader of the opposition who had been elected three to four times and advised him to speak without prejudice. He said: “Karachi is the capital of my province Sindh. Whatever you want to speak, we fully understand it. Don’t talk in terms of prejudice.”

Mr Khuhro said his political opponents should not be worried about PPP’s performance in the next general elections. In a tacit reference to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Mr Khuhro said that it did not look proper for a man, who had returned to the country after 10 years, to say that the PPP was restricted to one province only when his own party had been reduced to only one province.

Earlier participating in the discussion on general principles of the bill, Leader of the Opposition Khwaja Izharul Hassan said that he could not control his smile while hearing the government’s point of view in the house. The house, where ministers get furious if opposition wants to raise issue of funds and authority, was being informed that the Board of Revenue collected Rs60 billion annually, he said.

He said there was nothing like Sindh Board of Revenue in the province, rather it was Karachi Revenue Board because all money was generated from the metropolis. He said the government considered Karachi as a hen that laid golden eggs.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement lawmaker asked how the Sindh government could cry against injustice in the NFC award when the PPP itself has failed to pay attention to the constitutional requirement of setting up provincial finance commission. The authorities could collect Rs100bn from the people of Sindh and give permanence to PPP’s ‘autocratic’ rule but at least they should set up one model school, hospital or dispensary in their constituencies, he added.

Earlier speaking on the bill, former chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah recalled the history of Sindh Revenue Board and said under 18th Amendment when NFC award was announced the three provinces raised objection to the sales tax on services. Sindh used to get Rs4bn though 70 per cent of total revenue was being generated from the province, said Mr Shah. When asked for the right to collect taxes, Sindh was told that the provincial government didn’t have capacity to collect taxes. He said the PPP government pointed out that tax collection had become a provincial subject after the 18th Amendment. But the provincial government was told that it would not be able to collect even Rs4bn. As the Sindh Board of Revenue started collecting tax on services, it was Rs25bn in the first year, while this year it had so far collected Rs60bn. Within the next two years, the tax collection target of Rs100bn would be achieved, said the former chief minister.

The house, which was called to order at 11.30am by Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani, was adjourned till Friday after completion of the agenda at 3.30pm.

Earlier, five call-attention notices about water shortage in Mirpurkhas, encroachment on amenity plot in Shadman Town Sector 14-B, shortage of cardiac medicines in rural health centres in Ranipur, completion of road work in Nawan Goth Bandhai Mohallah and laying of 24-inch water pipeline in Korangi’s Sectors 33 and 34 were responded by the ministers concerned committing to take necessary measures to mitigate the complaints.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2017