KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly on Friday unanimously passed a bill allowing the hearing-impaired persons to get driving licences.
It was a rare sight in the house when several persons with hearing disability were allowed to witness the proceedings of the house from galleries as a sign language expert stood beside the speaker to inform them about the discussions regarding the law.
The amendment was duly debated for weeks among members of the standing committee of the provincial legislature on law and parliamentary affairs and human rights before a unanimously agreed draft was presented before the house.
Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani allowed a request by the treasury benches that the bill to be tabled as the first item on the agenda suspending Question Hour and other business as the order of the day showed.
A female sign language expert was allowed to enter the house and stood beside the chair after a motion presented by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla was unanimously passed.
As the interpreter appeared, special children sitting in the visitors’ galleries made signs to thank the lawmakers.
Several members sitting on either side of the aisle spoke over the bill and highlighted the issues being endured by the differently-abled persons bravely.
The legislation amended the Provincial Motor Vehicle Ordinance, 1965 to grant licence to the persons with hearing impairment for driving.
The amended law says: “The applicant with hearing impairment having up to 40 decibel hearing loss shall wear hearing aids and in case the hearing loss exceeds 40db, the applicant shall use assistive technology devices or means.”
The house condemns federal govt’s decision to abolish PMDC; homage paid to Baba Guru Nanak on his 550th birthday
Such devices would enable such drivers to be aware about sirens and hooters of emergency vehicles, etc.
It said the vehicles of such persons should display mandatory stickers, as might be prescribed.
Opposition Leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi said two of his daughters suffered from blindness and he knew well about the sufferings of people with disabilities. He said his daughters gradually lost their vision and it was extremely difficult for them to get education.
He requested the government, and later got passed an amendment in the law in this regard, that such persons should not be charged fee for licences.
He also demanded certain symbols that showed the driver could not hear.
Mines and Mineral Development Minister Shabbir Bijarani said with licences in their hands, those persons would not be dependent on others.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Ra’na Ansar praised the provincial government, calling upon other legislatures in the country to follow the example set by Sindh.
Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho said such persons would get exclusive stickers.
MQM-P’s Jawed Hanif said he felt lucky to be part of the house on such a historic moment.
Women Development Minister Shehla Raza said the provincial government had always strived for the people belonging to all spheres of life.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Shahzad Qureshi demanded the federal government to pass a similar law.
MQM-P’s Mangla Sharma said such actions on the part of the government would allow the people on the fringes of society to be part of the mainstream.
PTI’s Seema Zia demanded implementation of the job quota for disabled persons should be ensured.
Heer Soho, Khurrum Sher Zaman and Shabbir Qureshi also spoke.
Centre condemned for abolishing PMDC
Through another resolution, the assembly condemned the federal government for abolishing the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council and replacing it with the Pakistan Medical Commission.
The resolution, moved by PPP’s Marui Rashdi, demanded the Sindh government to establish its own Sindh Medical and Dental Council (SMDC) in the better interest of the medical fraternity in the province.
Ms Rashdi said by enacting an ordinance abolishing the country’s premier body that regulated medical services and replacing it with a vague PMC was “an utter humiliation of parliament”.
She said instead of improving the PMDC, the government replaced it with a body of its liking without consulting the provinces. “It is against the autonomy given to the provinces in the Constitution and we ask the Sindh government to establish SMDC for the good of doctors here who are extremely worried with this development.”
Opposition Leader Naqvi and PTI’s Imran Shah opposed the notion given in the resolution. They said the PMDC was discouraging foreign doctors who wanted to practice in Pakistan and “borders should be open for international doctors”.
Health Minister Pechuho said ordinances were not meant to be bills and “that bill is still in the shape of ordinance until it was passed by the Senate, which I hope will not [happen]”.
She said the federal government’s action was not acceptable to the provinces as the PMC was made without forging a consensus.
She said the current structure of the PMC was extremely controversial as it had not a single member from Sindh.
Besides, “the prime minister, a single person, has given arbitrary powers to pick and choose PMC members. Democracy should prevail in our country and not fascism like that.”
She said the abolishing of PMDC had affected those doing PhDs, doctors studying abroad and the entrance results that had recently been conducted. “This is an attempt to endorse unauthorised medical colleges and universities, thus promoting illegal practices and quackery.”
The resolution was passed with a majority of votes.
Labour Minister Saeed Ghani told the house in a policy statement that he was being threatened by officials of the National Accountability Bureau in Sukkur.
“NAB officials have extended a threat to me that they would offer a big surprise to me and those working with me,” said the minister.
He claimed the officials had tried to force the secretary and a deputy director of the Workers Welfare Board to get allotment orders of flats for workers and marriage grants distributed among workers through the NAB chairman.
Tribute to Baba Guru Nanak
The house unanimously passed a resolution paying homage to Baba Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhism, on his 550th birthday.
The resolution was moved by Grand Democratic Alliance’s Nand Kumar.
Culture Minister Sardar Shah, Ms Sharma and PTI’s Dewan Sachal also spoke.
Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2019