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Sindh Assembly witnesses another raucous day amid pre-budget debate

Updated April 24, 2019

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The Sindh Assembly on Tuesday saw another walkout staged by the opposition and a grave war of words between members of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. — AFP/File
The Sindh Assembly on Tuesday saw another walkout staged by the opposition and a grave war of words between members of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. — AFP/File

KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly on Tuesday saw another walkout staged by the opposition and a grave war of words between members of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf after a PTI lawmaker used a word about the PPP leadership that the treasury benches considered unparliamentary and derogatory.

As per an earlier decision by the house, the assembly had decided to debate the next fiscal’s budget this week by suspending routine business. However Speaker Siraj Durrani began the discussion only to see Opposition Leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi rise and claim it was against the rules of procedure not to run business of private members’ day on Tuesday.

Mr Durrani said everything routine had been suspended after the passage of a motion earlier which allowed skipping the routine agenda to allow for a detailed pre-budget session.

On the demand of Mr Naqvi that the speaker give a ruling about the skipping of routine business, he was told that such a ruling had already been given on Monday.

Opposition leader, demanding discussion on public accounts report, reminded that routine business was suspended

Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh said it seemed the opposition did not want to take part in the debate, which was so important and which the same members had been demanding so eagerly in the not-so-distant past.

“We had decided yesterday that the house would discuss the next budget for the next five days and we had already begun it,” said the chair. “It is a decision of the house and not by me.”

Mr Naqvi, with other opposition members raising voice for him, said instead of discussing budget the house should debate on the auditor general’s report on public accounts.

Mr Durrani said the pre-budget debate was begun on the demand of the opposition and the same members were now wasting time (of the house).

It took over 45 minutes to conclude the exchange of arguments between the chair and the opposition leader on the issue whether the pre-budget debate should resume; it culminated in another walkout by the opposition parties.

Though they returned after a while, the chair, while making it clear again that he would not succumb to anyone’s dictation, asked Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s sole member, Abdul Rasheed, to resume the debate.

Mr Rasheed said a recent statement of Prime Minister Imran Khan during his visit to Iran had left everyone stunned, and it showed how irresponsible one could be enjoying power at the helm.

The MMA lawmaker said the provincial government was facing financial hardships because Islamabad had withheld its legitimate funds.

He spoke at length on the need for various development works in his constituency in Lyari.

Centre blamed for lack of development

PPP’s Ghanwer Isran claimed that the pace of development in Sindh remained the fastest during the PPP’s reign. He said the stoppage of funds by the federal government had gravely affected the provincial government’s plans for development in various sectors in the province.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Javed Hanif was not in agreement with the PPP lawmaker’s statement, saying Sindh was lagging behind in many sectors as compared to the rest of the country.

He said many development schemes were either dormant or had been given least finances. He added that the people in Sindh had a greater per capita income in the past, but now the province had managed just to be ahead of Balochistan.

He alleged that the economy of Sindh had been destroyed because of stubbornness of the ruling party; and the rural economy had been hit the most.

PTI’s Raja Azhar’s certain words provoked noise during the day’s proceedings.

His speech was initially acceptable to the treasury benches even when he said the level of corruption in the present tenure of the PPP government had increased much more than what it was when Syed Qaim Ali Shah was the chief minister.

He demanded that the government account for the money it had received from Islamabad so far. He mocked the government’s assertion about greater spending in the education sector when he said teachers in many schools could not write even their own names.

However, during the speech he called the PPP leaders as “defected” in response to the opposition’s frequently used phrase “selected prime minister” about Imran Khan. His phrase was termed unacceptable by the government benches.

Every member on the treasury benches stood up and many of them moved closer to the opposition’s area, loudly protesting against the PTI lawmaker’s “offensive and objectionable” language. Members of the PPP and the PTI got dangerously close to each other as the opposition benches occupied by the MQM-P and the GDA remained quiet.

Treasury projectile, demand for apology

During the commotion, a female member from the treasury benches was seen, and later caught on mobile phone cameras, hurling something at the PTI’s lawmaker. However, it hit the lawmaker standing beside him. Later, it turned out that the PPP member had thrown her headphone in the opposition area.

The PPP members were constantly seeking an apology from the relevant PTI member or the leader of the opposition for using the alleged offensive words.

Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari succeeded in getting everyone seated after a long time. However, when Raja Azhar resumed speaking without offering an apology, the treasury benches started a loud protest again.

The PTI member was asked by the chair not to speak further saying he had damaged the rare harmony in the house because of his “irresponsible” wording.

Education Minister Sardar Shah said he could speak with deadlier poison against the PTI’s leadership as “we know many long stories about them”, but he would not stoop that low. He demanded that the opposition leader offer an apology or the trading of accusations would not stop.

“You should not expect us to sit idle when you hurt us by such unacceptably offensive words against our leaders,” said Mr Shah.

Opposition Leader Firdous Naqvi, after consulting his colleagues in the PTI, apologised to the house for the use of words spoken by a member of his party.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Chawla, in response to Mr Naqvi, also said his side too regretted the incident.

After another pre-budget speech made by PPP’s Farrukh Shah, the chair adjourned the session for the day.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2019