KARACHI: The Sindh chief minister said on Monday that his government would not let the province be turned into a police state and would ensure that Sindh remained a place where the people had the ultimate power to rule.

“This province is ruled by its people, it is not a police state and we’ll not allow it to be a police state,” said Syed Murad Ali Shah while speaking during Monday’s Sindh Assembly’s session presided over by Speaker Siraj Durrani.

Mr Shah was speaking on the murder of an activist of the Jeay Sindh Tehreek by a union committee chairman in Malir district, saying that the cold-blooded murder had shaken him.

He said Sindh was the only province where its chief executive (chief minister) could not order the police even for investigation into a murder as “they unfortunately got independence in the wake of an order of the court; they term everything I tell them as pressure being exerted by my office”.

He said that after he told the chief secretary to request the Sindh High Court for conducting a judicial inquiry, the police formed a committee to investigate the incident.

“I believe the police are also involved in this murder. I have told in my order that humanity is no longer in the police force. The police still call the victim a dacoit while they have not yet completed their inquiry.”

He said everyone had seen the video depicting the murder.

He said he asked the police for the arrest of the alleged killer and gave them another ultimatum on Monday, then “finally they have arrested the killer”.

Mr Shah raised serious questions over what the area police did to the victim. He said that even if the victim was wanted in certain cases, it gave no one a licence to kill him.

He said there were different rules of the game for police in Sindh and in the other provinces, adding that to make the police force people-friendly, his government would draft new laws and get them passed from the provincial legislature.

Mr Shah sought the assembly’s permission and got it instantly, as the leading opposition parties had boycotted the session, to meet the chief justices of the Supreme Court and the Sindh High Court to ask them for help to prevent Sindh from becoming a “police state”.

He said police were not like the army, which needed complete freedom of operation, as the army fought against enemies while the police were a civilian force meant to protect the people.

He lamented that soon after the passage of a bill that made it mandatory to take wounded persons to a hospital and take a legal course later, Malir’s policemen themselves disrespected the law.

Public Accounts Committee

Mr Shah said he was amazed at the demand of the opposition parties that the provincial Public Accounts Committee (PAC) be headed by the opposition leader as was being practised in the National Assembly.

He said he was ready to accept that demand not before Prime Minister Imran Khan signed a charter of democracy with Pakistan Peoples Party’s chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s president Shahbaz Sharif.

He said the PAC chairmanship was agreed upon by former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. However, neither the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, nor the PTI or any other political party was part of that accord.

“Yet, we are ready to hand PAC chairmanship to the leader of the opposition if their leader Imran Khan signs the charter of democracy with the two leaders.”

Opposition boycott

The members of the PTI, MQM-P and the Grand Democratic Alliance boycotted the session during the Question Hour after an exchange of harsh words between the GDA’s Nusrat Sehar Abbasi and IT Minister Taimur Talpur.

The GDA member left her seat angrily after the provincial minister said the PPP government had given a job to her husband.

She uttered words which Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari, presiding over the session, got expunged from the assembly’s proceedings. She also tried to go to the seat of the minister, but other members made sure that the situation did not aggravate.

All members from the opposition benches, barring three from the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan and Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, rose in their seats and congregated in front of the chair and protested vociferously.

Soon Speaker Durrani replaced his deputy as the opposition members boycotted the session and left the assembly building after speaking to the media outside. In the absence of most opposition members, the Sindh Assembly unanimously passed a motion censuring the “unparliamentary language and behaviour” of Nusrat Abbasi. The motion was tabled by PPP’s Sadia Javed.

Anti-encroachment drive

Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani wound up the debate on the aftermath of the anti-encroachment drive in the city on the adjournment motion tabled by MMA’s Abdul Rasheed. Other speakers had discussed the issue on Friday.

Mr Ghani said the Sindh government was facing a shortage of Rs104 billion in the federal divisible pool’s transfer, which was a key hurdle in helping the people affected by the recent anti-encroachment drive. Besides, he said, the chief minister could not grant land.

He said the mayor had identified certain marketplaces where some of the affected shopkeepers could be rehabilitated; yet, resources and spaces were fewer with the authorities to rehabilitate all of them.

“Still,” he said, “we are trying and will manage by all possible means we have”.

He said the Karachi Neighbourhood Improvement Programme had nothing to do with the widespread anti-encroachment drive, carried out on the order of the apex court.

Mr Ghani said people having houses on the KWSB mains had been given notices, but action against them had been stopped after people resisted the KWSB staff in Gulshan-i-Iqbal.

He said action against the buildings being built on converted or illegally occupied spaces was going on, but the government had decided not to take action against the buildings duly inhabited by thousands of people.

“Everyone knows what happened recently when the federal government tried to vacate Pakistan Quarters, which is a tiny area. Imagine what will happen when we try to ask hundreds of thousands of people to vacate their homes.”

He said like the Lyari Expressway, resettlement would be a component of the Karachi Circular Railway project.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2019