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KARACHI: Amid a noisy protest and walkout by all opposition parties in the Sindh Assembly, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, based on its numeric strength, managed to get passed a controversial bill empowering the chief minister to control the public sector universities in the province in place of the Sindh governor.

With the passage of the Sindh Universities and Institutes Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 — through which Acts of 24 universities have been amended — the Sindh governor will no longer enjoy the powers to control the public sector universities since all powers have been given to the CM.

Lawmakers belonging to all opposition groups in the Sindh Assembly — the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and its defectors now representing the Pak Sarzameen Party, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional — rejected the bill when the chair, Deputy Speaker Syeda Shehla Raza, sought the opinion from the house during the clause-by-clause reading by Senior Minister Nisar Khuhro.

Opposition to challenge the legislation in court

Chanting ‘No, No’ slogans, the opposition lawmakers stood on their seats and tore up copies of the bill. They staged a walkout and did not return to the session.

During their absence, the bill was passed into law.

Later, Leader of the Opposition Khwaja Izhar-ul-Hassan told the media outside the Sindh Assembly that the opposition would challenge the bill in court.

Terming it a sad day for the province where standard of education was already declining, he said there was no quorum in the house when the bill was taken up for consideration, as only 28 MPAs were present.

Syed Sardar Ahmad of the MQM said that all university teachers were against this bill and had rejected it.

Faisal Subzwari of the same party said that for the last 10 years the standard of education had been falling in the province and despite its failure to run even one education department the Sindh government was now going to manage and control public sector universities, including their admission policy.

Two more bills to set up varsities adopted

As the opposition was not present in the house, the PPP lawmakers also passed two more bills — The Sohail University Bill, 2017 and The University of Modern Sciences, Tando Muhammad Khan Bill, 2017 — without any hindrance.

Mr Khuhro, who is the parliamentary affairs minister, moved the motion for presentation and consideration of the report of the standing committee on higher technical education and research, school education (up to matriculation) and special education on the government bill No 2 of 2018 i.e. The Sohail University Bill, 2017.

The bill was passed into law after the third reading.

The house also took up the third bill from the order of the day as the minister presented the report of the standing committee on higher, technical education and research, school education (up to matriculation) and special education on the government bill No 3 of 2018 i.e. the University of Modern Sciences, Tando Muhammad Khan Bill, 2017.

Before the bill was taken up for consideration, Senior Minister Khuhro while speaking on the general principles said that the higher education was the need of the hour and it was a matter of great pleasure that the university was being established in a rural area like Tando Muhammad Khan to facilitate our youths.

Heer Soho, who recently defected to the PPP after leaving the MQM, supported the bill and said that the TM Khan University would also benefit youths of districts of Thatta, Badin, Umerkot, Mirpurkhas and other parts.

After the speeches, Senior Minister Khuhro made the motion for taking up the bill for its clause-by-clause reading.

After the third reading with the adoption of the bill into law, the chair called it a day at 1.40pm to meet on Monday at 10am.

Motion against contaminated water opposed

Earlier, an adjournment motion tabled by PTI’s Khurram Sherzaman regarding supply of contaminated water to the people was opposed by Senior Minister Khuhro.

Terming it vague, he said there was no mention of any city or village where contaminated water was supplied. He said it did not merit taking up for discussion.

The motion could not get the leave of the house and was dropped when the chair put it to a vote.

Out of six call attention notices on the agenda, only one was taken up whose notice was given by Dewan Chand Chawla asking the status of the project for installing CCTV cameras at minorities worship places.

Responding to the notice, the special assistant to chief minister on minorities affairs, Dr Khatumal Jeevan, informed the house that Rs400 million projects formalities had already been approved and after tendering its implementation would soon start on 263 sites.

The other five could not be taken up for want of presence of the ministers concerned. The chair, Ms Raza, took notice of the situation and expressed her displeasure saying it was not appropriate on part of the ministers that they were not present in the house.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2018