KARACHI: Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Wednesday told the Sindh Assembly that his government would never purchase imported gas and demanded that the constitutional right of the people on natural gas being produced in their province should not be violated.
“I had made Sindh’s stance in clear terms in the CCI [Council of Common Interests] meeting and my plea had been accepted by the prime minister,” said the chief minister while furnishing a policy statement during the Sindh Assembly’s session presided over by Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani.
He was referring to a recent statement given to the media by Federal Energy Minister Omar Ayub Khan and Special Assistant to PM on Petroleum Nadeem Baber in which they claimed that the Sindh government had agreed on the weightage average cost of gas (WACOG).
Terming the statement totally baseless, Mr Shah said: “I had taken up this matter in the CCI meeting and had requested the participants to accept the constitutional right of the people of Sindh on the gas being produced from our province. The prime minister had accepted my plea under Article 158 of the Constitution.”
In the absence of all opposition parties, the house passes a bill empowering the CM to make appointment of ombudsman
He added the CCI meeting was held on Dec 23 and on Dec 25, he wrote a letter to the prime minister and apprised him of the issue vis-à-vis implementation of Article 158.
He said that the prime minister replied to him to wait for the minutes of the CCI meeting and then if he [the CM] had any objection, the PM would remove them accordingly.
“The minutes of the CCI meeting should have been issued within a week but they are still being awaited,” the CM said.
Sindh getting 800-900mmcfd gas
The chief minister said Sindh was producing 25,000 to 26,000 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) gas but in return it was hardly receiving 800 to 900 mmcfd.
Mr Shah said the local gas price was Rs820/unit while the price of LNG was Rs1,690 per unit.
He said that the federal government was not giving Sindh its own gas and forcing the provincial government to purchase expensive imported gas.
“Why should we opt for the imported gas when we are producing 70 per cent of its nationwide production,” he asked. “Our stance is very clear ie give our people their constitutional right on the natural gas.”
Referring to the media talk of Mr Khan and Mr Babar, the two federal cabinet members, the chief minister condemned their statement that Sindh was ready to purchase LNG and said: “We will never accept LNG on average price, [we] want our natural gas being produced from Sindh instead.”
All opposition parties stage walkout
Earlier, opposition parties staged a walkout when the chair disallowed their demand for a detailed discussion before the passage of the Establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman for the Province of Sindh (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
A number of lawmakers from either side of the aisle engaged in exchange of heated arguments and at times their colleagues had to intervene to stop a quarrel from getting worse.
The opposition members wanted to speak in detail since they considered the amendment bill was of greater importance that transferred the governor’s power to appoint the provincial ombudsman to the chief minister.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla, however, started a clause-by-clause reading of the bill despite loud protests by the opposition that later led to their walkout.
It was for the first time that all opposition parties jointly walked out of the house, as two members of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan and the sole member of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal joined major opposition parties — the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Grand Democratic Alliance — in the protest.
The bill empowers the Sindh chief minister to appoint the ombudsman by saying the office of the governor was constitutional and therefore his/her functions should remain constitutional.
It referred to cases decided by the apex court in 2011 and 2012 in which the court observed “exercising the executive authority by the governor is in violation of the express constitutional intent and mandate”.
“The role of ombudsman for the Province of Sindh Act, 1991, is a statutory one created by the Act of the Provincial Assembly,” said the bill. “To make the role of provincial ombudsman more effective, it will be expedient to empower the chief minister and to make provision for the purpose.”
The bill concluded the provisions of the existing law did not provide qualifications for appointment as ombudsman.
“Therefore, in order to provide qualifications as well as term of appointment of ombudsman, it is expedient to amend the law,” it concluded in the statement of objects and reasons.
The bill was passed unanimously in the absence of opposition lawmakers.
Motor vehicle law amended
The Shaheed Allah Buksh Soomro University of Art, Design and Heritage Jamshoro Bill, 2020 was referred to the standing committee concerned to consider and submit its report to the house in two weeks.
The house also passed the Provincial Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2020 with a majority vote.
The new law changes certain provisions of the Provincial Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1965 in which term “certificate of registration” has been defined.
“As now the provincial government intends to issue the Security Featured Motor Vehicle Registration (MVR) Smart Card, the existing definition of certificate of registration needs to be modified and to include therein the Security Featured MVR Smart Card,” according to reasons elaborated by the law.
The house deferred a resolution moved by PPP’s Qasim Soomro in which the provincial government was asked to correct the spelling of 5,000-year-old city of Moenjodaro to Muhenjodaro.
Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2020