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KARACHI: Lawmakers in the Sindh Assembly on Friday declared that any attempt aimed at rolling back the landmark 18th Amendment to the Constitution would be resisted with all might.

Replicating what they did a day earlier, lawmakers belonging to three large opposition parties — Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Grand Democratic Alliance — walked out of the house over a tiff between a PTI lawmaker and Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani and did not take part in the debate on an adjournment motion moved by PPP’s Ghazala Sial.

The disturbance began when PTI’s Jamal Siddiqui engaged in an argument with the LG minister over the issue of water hydrants in the city.

The discussion on the feared rollback of 18th Amendment continues and will be concluded on Monday

At his calling-attention notice regarding alleged running of illegal hydrants in the limits of PS-106, Mr Siddiqui hinted at the LG minister’s failure and alleged involvement with the racket.

He also questioned about the reasons behind transfer of the director general of the Karachi Development Authority.

LG Minister Ghani, who normally never loses his calm, visibly fumed at the PTI lawmaker’s assertions. He said those who had levelled such “false accusations” should prove it in court or refer it to the National Accountability Bureau.

“I will be cursed if I am taking a single penny from any hydrant from across the province; or those will be cursed who level such false accusations against me,” he said.

He said the KDA’s director general was a brother of the PTI’s lawmaker Siddiqui and he had been transferred because of misconduct at workplace.

The minister’s words were confronted by several members on the opposition benches. They rose and demanded the minister to apologise. The LG minister said he would apologise after the PTI member, who had falsely accused him of minting money from hydrants.

When the loud calls turned into yet another hullaballoo, Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani said the opposition’s member was the first who used inappropriate words against the minister.

Initially, the PTI lawmakers and then those belonging to the MQM-P and the GDA got closer to Mr Durrani’s chair speaking loudly before marching out of the house.

Before that Minister Ghani had asked PTI’s Rabistan Khan to hand him over details of the alleged involvement of the Lyari Resettlement Project’s employees in the encroachment and china-cutting of amenity plots during the latter’s calling-attention notice.

He said the matter would be referred to the Anti-Corruption Establishment.

To another notice moved by PPP’s Tanzeela Qambrani, Education Minister Sardar Shah said his ministry had contacted an eminent educationist of Finland who headed an organisation to train teachers and improve educational standard in Sindh.

Debate on 18th Amendment

PPP’s Ghanwer Isran said the 18th Amendment had a very special place in the political history of the country as it was the first time when a sitting president relinquished his vast powers willingly and delegated them to the elected parliament. He said the grand piece of legislation awarded greater autonomy and financial sufficiency to provinces, which was evident from the case of Sindh with the “unprecedented development” that was only possible through the Constitution that ensured prosperity across the country.

He spoke over the seventh National Finance Commission award, which was given on an improved formula during the PPP’s rule in Islamabad and none of the succeeding governments had given it again despite the fact that it was made mandatory constitutionally. “Whoever opposes the 18th Amendment is not a friend of the state of Pakistan.”

Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s lone member Abdul Rasheed agreed with the point raised in the adjournment motion, saying instead of creating problems regarding the Constitution, the government had plenty of issues, most of which were their own creations, to take care of.

He wondered why the 18th Amendment was being opposed by the MQM-P despite the fact that it was one of the avid proponents of the law that had been passed by both houses of parliament unanimously.

Criticising Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said: “He thinks of himself as the mayor of Banigala instead of prime minister of one of the largest countries in the world.”

He said the country was experiencing many grave issues and most of the problems had been created by the PTI during its eight-month rule.

Women Development Minister Shehla Raza said any action that harmed national harmony would be lethal for the country.

She referred to the imposition of One Unit in a bid to make false parity with the then eastern wing of the country that brought grave outcome at the cost of Pakistan’s integrity.

She said currently, the “selected government” was taking similar actions and desired to launch the same misadventures that had hurt the country gravely in the past decades. “We have been trapped by the individuals who have been put at the helm and who want to have all powers.”

She said the MQM-P was an active partner of the then PPP-led government when the 18th Amendment was conceived and passed by parliament. “They supported everything in that thick document then, and now, we wonder, they are the same people who are opposing it with the same zeal.”

Referring to a recent shuffle in the federal cabinet, PPP’s Raja Razzaq said it clearly showed that those ruling were not capable of running the country. “They are failing because of their own incompetence and to hide it they blame the 18th Amendment.”

He loudly said that the recent speculations about imposing presidential rule in the country would never be a reality. “We’ll never allow the rollback of 18th Amendment ... the present system is not going to give space to the presidential system.”

Marui Rashdi said the PPP’s significance to the democratic order in Pakistan could never be scrapped from the country’s political history and 18th Amendment was highly significant to keep Pakistan a democratic country.

Heer Soho said those who wanted to revoke the 18th Amendment were ruining the country.

Munawwar Wassan and Shazia Umer also spoke.

The debate would be concluded on Monday.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2019