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Opposition in Sindh Assembly continues protest over PAC chairmanship

Updated March 09, 2019

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Opposition protests outside CM House in Karachi. — Online/File
Opposition protests outside CM House in Karachi. — Online/File

KARACHI: As three major opposition parties continued their protest in the house for a fourth consecutive day, the Sindh Assembly was on Friday told that the provincial government had made all measures required in accordance with the War Book in the wake of the tensions on the eastern borders of the country.

The sitting succeeded the intense proceedings that the house had witnessed on Thursday when a number of opposition lawmakers, chiefly belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, had allegedly attacked the sole member of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal Abdul Rasheed.

Mr Rasheed was moving a privilege motion against the Leader of the Opposition Firdous Shamim Naqvi for an earlier confrontation in which the former had called the members of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan and the MMA as proxies of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party.

On Friday, the house soon witnessed raucous chants and thumping of desks from the opposition benches when Deputy Speaker Rehana Laghari did not allow a PTI member to speak on a point of order before Question Hour. She asked him to speak after the day’s business was over.

PTI’s Khurram Sher Zaman did not sit back as the rest of his colleagues, first from the PTI’s ranks and then those affiliated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and the Grand Democratic Alliance, stood chanting slogans against the PPP leadership and the provincial government.

A minister tells the house that the govt has a contingency plan in place in case of war

As Ms Laghari was trying to convince the opposition members to let the assembly proceedings run smoothly, Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani came to replace her.

The opposition members left their seats and congregated in front of the chair. Their slogans were hardly audible to those sitting in the press gallery. However, Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani and the chair himself later expressed their anger for what they called using abusive language by the protesting lawmakers directed towards the speaker in particular.

Ruling party plays ‘constructive opposition’

Amid opposition’s protest, Speaker Durrani announced Question Hour. He particularly mentioned MQM-P’s Khwaja Izharul Hasan and appreciated him as “one of the best leaders of the opposition” in the assembly’s previous mandate.

As it happened in the previous three days, all questions for the day’s agenda were asked by the opposition members. However, when the chair asked GDA’s Arif Jatoi to speak he opted not to ask his question.

Interestingly, the treasury benches decided to play their part in the game this time around. Instead of letting Question Hour wind up in moments as it happened before, the PPP’s lawmakers played the role of a ‘constructive opposition’ and asked numerous supplementary questions on all questions from Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu.

The opposition members, barring TLP’s two and MMA’s sole member, kept chanting slogans when the segment for calling-attention notices began. Unlike the day before, three of the five notices were given by PPP members and the segment had another notice from MMA’s member.

PPP’s Ghazala Siyal asked the government whether it had developed a disaster response system for war threats in the provincial capital.

Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh informed the house that the war situation still persisted in the country and the provincial government had taken various measures in accordance with what was enshrined in the War Book.

He said a level of emergency had been there, particularly for 11 districts of Sindh, where various measures had been taken to respond properly to any dangerous situation.

Evacuation plan in case of war in place

He said plans for possible evacuation of people in the event of war from certain regions had been made along with identification of safe houses where water, power and other facilities should be available.

Besides, hospitals and other health facilities were on alert, stocks of medicines had been made and doctors and paramedics should be on duty.

He said emergency cells had been established at taluka and district levels in addition to alerting the civil defence mechanism.

“All the related departments and organisations have been alerted for proper supply chain; besides, ample funds have been allocated under special budgetary amounts and have been kept under the disposal of deputy commissioners and other bodies.”

He said proper coordination had been developed with the paramilitary forces for making availability of proper communication vis-à-vis road networks, electronic links, bridges, etc.

Mr Shaikh said meetings of all departments had been held with Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah in the chair. Besides, a contingency plan had been prepared in a recent cabinet meeting.

“Still then, you will not get PAC [Public Accounts Committee],” he quipped referring to the opposition’s demand that the leader of the opposition be made PAC chief.

Action against burning plastic bottles

In another notice given by PPP’s Heer Soho, she said national companies and multinationals were using plastic bottles for packaging of various drinks and mineral water despite the fact that they posed health hazards for general public. She asked the government to inform the house about any measures it had taken to discourage it.

Environment Minister Taimur Talpur said his ministry had started taking action against those involved in burning plastic bottles.

PPP’s Kulsoom Chandio asked the provincial government to take up the matter of inflated gas bills with the federal government.

Energy Minister Shaikh replied that the situation regarding supply of gas was extremely unacceptable because of the federal government’s refusal to supply sufficient gas to Sindh, which produced more than 70 per cent of the total gas in the country.

He, however, said the government would take up the issue with the federal authorities again.

MMA’s Rasheed asked about improvement of streets in Lyari. LG Minister Ghani said 12 of Lyari’s key streets would be reconstructed by the end of this fiscal year. Besides, sufficient funds had been there to improve parks and other facilities in the neighbourhood, he added.

Resolution on Women’s Day

The house also passed a resolution regarding International Women’s Day.

It was a rare occasion when the protesting MPAs stopped chanting slogans. However, they opted to leave the house instead of taking part in the resolution.

The resolution moved from the treasury benches commended women of substance like Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, Benazir Bhutto and Malala Yousafzai.

Another resolution moved by the MMA member was clubbed with it in which the government was demanded to bring Aafia Siddiqui, who was in a US prison on terrorism charges, back to the country.

Later, Speaker Durrani expressed his grief over Thursday proceedings and said those who had attacked the MMA’s lawmaker should have offered an unconditional apology.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2019