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Controversial new province call dominates pre-budget debate in PA

Updated April 30, 2019

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This file photo shows a session of the Sindh Assembly. — APP/File
This file photo shows a session of the Sindh Assembly. — APP/File

KARACHI: The controversial issue concerning the division of Sindh on Monday triggered heated speeches from lawmakers belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party in the Sindh Assembly amid desk thumping by members of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf during the speech of MQM’s Khwaja Izharul Hasan.

However, Leader of the Opposition Firdous Shamim Naqvi later said that no one was speaking about dividing Sindh. “We are not speaking about the division of Sindh, but we are here to make Sindh stronger,” he said.

He said it was the sense of deprivation which was on the rise in the cities where people were not being given due share in jobs.

“Sindh is not a province but it signifies a culture and civilisation,” he said, adding: “No one can divide Sindh, but who says there cannot be upper and lower Sindh, because Sukkur and Karachi are [too] distant to each other and people have go very far to get their problems solved.”

He said that Karachi was the key earner for the country and the province, “then why it is not being given what it deserves?”

He supported the presence of Rangers in the province, saying the law and order situation would worsen if the paramilitary force was allowed to leave Sindh.

“There is a big gap between the numbers of primary and secondary schools, thus the government itself is not playing its part to offer education to children who are forced not to go further because of absence of secondary schools in their villages and towns,” he said as the last speaker from the opposition side during the pre-budget debate.

He said the government seemed to have done nothing to eradicate rampant corruption in the province.

He appreciated the performance of the Sindh Revenue Board, but said its collection of more than Rs100 billion tax on services could increase by more than Rs400bn if the board’s capacity was improved. He termed the collection of property tax as abysmal.

‘We will never allow division of Sindh’

Earlier, Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani spelled out several development works that the provincial government had carried out in Karachi rubbishing the opposition’s claim that the PPP’s government was ignoring the metropolis in its development spectrum.

He said the harm that the PTI-led federal government’s eight months in power had caused to the economy of the country was much more severe than what was being said about the damage caused by the alleged corruption by the PML-N’s previous government.

He criticised the opposition parties in the province when he said politicians who insulted the people of Sindh ultimately went to the same people seeking votes.

He said the MQM leadership had abandoned its leader Altaf Hussain, yet, they were stuck to his politics. “You were compelled then, but now you are free of those compulsions. I request you to change your way of politics to end bitterness in Sindh.”

He said if there was any connection between the PPP and alleged Lyari gangster Uzair Baloch it was former home minister Zulfikar Mirza. He added Mr Mirza would have been in jail had he still been in PPP, but now he was enjoying life.

Regarding an earlier speech by MQM-P’s Khwaja Izhar, Mr Ghani said there was certainly a method given in the Constitution for creation of new provinces using which the previous assembly in Punjab passed a resolution for a new province unanimously. This was not the case in Sindh, he added.

“I don’t think any other opposition party [apart from MQM-P] supports the division of Sindh. And, what is more important is that we’ll never allow division of Sindh.”

‘New province demand not unconstitutional’

Khwaja Izhar said the demand for new provinces was not unconstitutional as the galleries saw members of the MQM-P and PTI thumping desks during his speech while those belonging to the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) sat idle.

He said that the Constitution, which was authored during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government, allowed for new provinces. “Why you don’t accept it when it is permitted in the Constitution and it is not a crime.”

MQM-P’s parliamentary party leader Kanwar Naveed Jameel said those who migrated from India did not come here to be called Mohajirs and carve out a new province in Sindh.

“Our forefathers did not come here to become Mohajirs and make a new province here, but what happened then and now based on discrimination with the people of Karachi and other cities of Sindh has taken the matter to this juncture,” he said.

Education and Culture Minister Sardar Shah spoke at length about the performance of his departments.

Later, he said no one in Sindh had used Sindh card. Instead, he said it was corruption which had plagued Pakistan since its inception, much before founding of the PPP. “Sindh is not a card, it is a cause. It is mother of civilisations and no one who loves it can use it as a card like the gamblers do.”

He said in 1949 when Liaquat Ali Khan was the prime minister five chief ministers of Sindh were disqualified by using a vague Peoples Representative Disqualification Act. And the same law also caused disqualification of 7,000 political workers.

Similarly, he added, in 1959, stalwarts like Sheikh Mujib, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and Maulana Bhashani were among 6,000 political activists who had been disqualified under Elected Bodies Disqualification Order.

He said certain powers had been using the vague “corruption card” for racial profiling particularly during dictatorships.

He said there were three princely states in Sindh before the British occupation, yet, Sindh was one; Raja Dahar was Sindh’s ruler, a Kashmiri himself, as Kashmir was a part of Sindh more than a millennium ago.

“Sindh joined Pakistan as a constitutional and not an administrative unit and we’ll not allow it to be divided on the pretext of quota system.”

He said Punjabi and Seraiki speakers were in agreement to form a new province, while a majority of Urdu-speaking people in Sindh had rejected Sindh’s division.

Ministers Ismail Rahu, Imtiaz Shaikh, and Awais Shah, GDA’s Nand Kumar and Rafiq Banbhan, PTI’s Seema Zia also spoke.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2019