Pre-budget debate, exchange of accusations go hand in hand in Sindh Assembly

Updated April 25, 2019

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‘Look around you and ask your heart how radically Sindh has changed positively.’
‘Look around you and ask your heart how radically Sindh has changed positively.’

KARACHI: Around a dozen members from both sides of the house spoke on Wednesday during a debate aimed at registering their proposals for the next financial year’s budget of the provincial government. However, certain opposition members did not stop passing controversial comments that ultimately caused haphazard adjournment of the day’s session.

During the debate Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf lawmaker Jamal Siddiqui began his speech while wearing a helmet in the house referring to a ‘projectile attack’ on a fellow member by a woman member of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party a day earlier.

Another member of the same opposition party, Saeed Ahmed, initially remarked regarding the same incident that the women members should be frisked while entering the assembly hall. And then he addressed the PPP chairman using words that appeared to be too personal to be tolerated by the majority party’s lawmakers.

‘Look around you and ask your heart how radically Sindh has changed positively’

And the final words of the PTI lawmaker forced Speaker Siraj Durrani to adjourn the session for Thursday.

The session resumed with the sole agenda to hold the pre-budget debate. Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Rashid Khilji was the first speaker who spoke on the issues involving his constituency with intermittent criticism of the policies of the provincial government, which had dented Sindh’s progress in general and particularly smeared the city’s face with increasing garbage and insanitation.

He questioned the provincial government’s policy that denied the legitimate right of the municipalities to get greater funds.

Sindh being ‘victimised’

PPP’s Shamim Mumtaz said it was ‘terrorism’ on the part of the federal government by denying Sindh’s funds to the province. She said Sindh was being victimised because a majority of its people had voted for the PPP.

“Everyone knows that they [PTI government] are beneficiaries of selection,” she remarked.

She said the PTI’s federal government sacked its own finance minister for “incompetence ... the gap has ultimately been filled by a finance minister of our tenure”.

Ms Mumtaz said those who were criticising the PPP’s Sindh government were well aware that they could not build the Bus Rapid Transit in Peshawar in the next 100 years.

She demanded that the chair arrange refresher courses for certain lawmakers to train them in parliamentary ethics.

Thar’s woes

Grand Democratic Alliance’s Razzaq Rahimoon said not a single elected lawmaker was part of the Thar Energy Board.

“I belong to an opposition party, but the fact is that the members of the board affiliated with the government do not belong to Thar either.”

He said the people of the desert district were being continuously ignored despite the fact that the region had offered treasures in the shape of coal and other resources.

He demanded that well-equipped hospitals be established in every taluka of Thar.

PTI’s Riaz Haider said the PPP government had been in charge of all the affairs in Sindh for more than a decade during which billions of rupees had been spent in the name of development, but no tangible development was in sight.

PPP’s Heer Ismail Soho said no one could do anything for those who were too stubborn even to trust their own eyes.

“Look around you and ask your heart how radically Sindh has changed positively during the PPP government,” she remarked.

She said the provincial government had prioritised social sectors during its rule in Sindh and was committed to achieving its targets.

“Many targets have been achieved in health, education and other social sectors. There is a great progress in other sectors such as agriculture, irrigation and tax recovery. Just go for independent comparisons and you will find the right answer,” said Ms Soho.

MQM-P’s Waseem Qureshi demanded better spending on development of the cities of Sindh, which had been denied their legitimate share in development during the PPP’s rule.

He said the protest by the elected lawmakers and parties of the urban parts of Sindh could turn even louder if their sense of deprivation was not addressed.

PPP’s Tanzeela Sheedi said the PPP’s was the only leadership that acknowledged the marginalised segments of society and helped them get emancipated.

She said she belonged to the community that had been given its rightful share in power not by anyone but PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and ex-president Asif Zardari in line with the vision of ex-premiers Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.

She said despite all odds the PPP’s agenda to bring radical development to the province was “greatly fulfilled”, which was the reason the provincial government was being victimised by Islamabad in denying their share from the federal kitty.

PPP’s Noor Mohammad Bhurgari said the provincial government would not be deterred by any tactics being manoeuvred by the PTI government in the Centre.

GDA’s Waryam Faqir said the provincial government had failed in strengthening the dwindling agriculture sector. He said the food department was politically motivated and was victimising the people having affiliation with the opposition parties.

Wearing helmet in house

PTI’s Jamal Siddiqui was wearing a helmet when he began his speech. Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari asked him not to play to the gallery as he was not riding a motorcycle in the house.

Mr Siddiqui said he was afraid of an incident in which a PPP woman member hurled a headphone at a colleague of his. However, he later put the helmet on his bench and delivered a lengthy speech, criticising the provincial government.

PTI’s Saeed Ahmed’s demand for frisking of women members while entering the house sparked a protest mainly from the treasury benches.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Chawla said such remarks were aimed at targeting women, thus, it was against the culture of the country where women were accorded immense respect.

Mr Ahmed’s another comment aimed at ridiculing the PPP chairman prompted a greater protest from the treasury benches. Many PPP members moved closer to the opposition benches, making the atmosphere in the house tense. Lawmakers from both sides pointed fingers at each other amid shouts.

The treasury members were heard saying that they were able to put deadlier poison in their speeches against the PTI leadership if the PTI lawmakers continued to target their leaders.

As it happened a day earlier, members belonging to the MQM-P and the GDA did not take part in the episode.

Speaker Durrani asked them to maintain decorum of the house and adjourned the proceedings when his advice was largely ignored.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2019