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KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly on Thursday began a five-day general discussion on the Budget 2016-17’s two quarterly execution reports — July to September, and October to December 2016.

On the first day four members, two from the treasury benches and two from the opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement, could make it before Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani called it a day at 1.45pm.

Initiating the discussion, Mehfoozyar Khan of the MQM said that a critical appraisal of the budget was a right of the opposition. He said in the report the figures of release of funds and expenditures were quite visible in the files, but where those schemes were executed could not be traced on the ground.

He opposed giving powers to commissioners and deputy commissioners for the execution of schemes without taking the elected representatives on board. The MQM’s lawmaker also complained that no development schemes were being executed in the constituencies of the Muttahida’s MNAs, MPAs and local councillors.

He demanded that the deputy commissioners be placed under the elected representatives.

Heer Ismail Soho of the MQM pointed out that during six months fund releases and expenditures’ report manifested unsatisfactory performance of the Sindh government departments. She said the expenditures and releases of six months showed that the pace of utilisation of funds in the execution of development schemes were not up to the mark, and how it was possible that 100 per cent allocated funds would be spent on the schemes. This process of expenditure was quite questionable and would lead to a misuse of funds.

Dr Sohrab Sarki of the Pakistan People’s Party said that after the 18th Amendment the devolved departments from the federal government to the provincial government were running very well. Giving examples, he said that the budget of the Jinnah Hospital, Civil Hospital and National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases had almost been doubled where people not only from the province but across the country came for treatment.

He said the Sindh government had sent 64 students for learning the Chinese language and 40 others were being sent who after returning from China would teach the Chinese language in educational institutions. He said the Sindh government was spending huge funds on the execution of development schemes, including in Karachi, where billons of rupees were spent to improve infrastructure and provide civic facilities.

He said there was no doubt that at the time of excavation of roads and other development works people had to face difficulties but after the completion of the projects they would enjoy the convenience.

Naeem Kharal of the PPP said this was the second term of the PPP government, which had made every effort to develop Sindh as the party had always given a priority to the interests of the people. He said the next budget would also be a manifestation of the aspirations of the people.

After his speech the chair adjourned the session till Friday at 10 am.

Delay in sessions

Earlier, the Sindh Assembly session on Thursday, delayed by an hour and 45 minutes for want of quorum, irked Speaker Durrani, who urged the parliamentary party leaders to ask their party members to come on time so that the business from the order of the day could be resumed.

He said he usually reached the assembly by 10am and had to wait for the quorum in the house. If the lawmakers arrived late even when the discussion on the budget quarterly reports was fixed, how the house could discharge its responsibilities, he wondered.

The speaker also took notice of the absence of secretaries whose gallery had no more than a few officials and asked the chief minister to ensure the presence of the secretaries concerned during the session. When Senior Minister for Education Jam Mehtab Dahar asked the chair to fix a time to start the session, the speaker said it was no excuse as the time was already fixed to start the session at 10am, as such the legislators after reaching the assembly should take their seats in the hall instead of sitting in the lounge or cafeteria.

Taking up the business from the agenda the chair gave the floor to Heer Ismail Soho of the MQM, who by her short-notice question asked the minister for public health engineering about his department.

Raana Ansar of the MQM by her call attention notice drew the attention of the house towards the Mirpurkhas prison, which was built in 1903 for 72 prisoners and had not been extended even after it was made a district prison in 1956; at present the facility housed 200 to 300 prisoners. Health Minister Dr Mandhro claimed the prison housed 175 to 185 prisoners but now work on its expansion was in progress which after the completion by the end of the current year would accommodate up to 500 prisoners.

In response to a call attention notice of Kamran Akhtar of the MQM about any proposal for setting up a DNA laboratory in Karachi, Health Minister Mandhro said the government had renovated the building to set up a DNA lab at the Services Hospital, tender notices had been issued for procuring its machinery and the staff had been sent for training in handling the equipment.

In reply to the notice of Khurram Sherzaman of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf about dilapidated roads, standing sewerage water and garbage dumps everywhere outside the Cantonment Railway Station, LG Minister Jam Khan Shoro said the railway station was under the federal government and part of the locality under the cantonment board. However, if the lawmaker pointed out the exact location, the Sindh government would improve the conditions. The speaker advised the minister to also remind the Railways ministry to discharge its responsibility.

The two other call attention notices of Nusrat Sahar Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and Aamir Moin Pirzada of the MQM could not be taken up for want of their presence.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2017