• Home Minister Lanjar says govt took the decision in the wake of Paretabad tragedy
• Says govt to give compensation to heirs of those killed in street crime
• House unanimously passes amended bill to allow cantonment boards to collect property tax in their areas for Sindh govt

KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly was informed on Monday that following the death of 27 persons, including 19 children, in an explosion in a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinder filling shop in Hyderabad, the provincial government had decided to shift all such facilities from residential areas.

Home Minister Zia Lanjar announced what he called the government’s “principled decision” in response to a call attention notice of Hyderabad MPA Rashid Khan of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan regarding increasing incidents of cylinder blasts.

Mr Lanjar came up with recent measures taken by the government after the May 30 tragic incident in Hyderabad Paretabad area, with the most important one being moving all gas cylinder filling shops in major urban centre out of populated areas.

“It’s solely the responsibility of Ogra [Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority] to ensure sale of only certified and safe cylinders,” he said.

He said: “This is very unfortunate but also a fact that due to loadshedding of gas in many Sindh areas, the use of gas cylinders as an alternative has increased manifolds during the past few months.

“But human lives are precious and we will do whatever we can to save them. So at our end, we have issued directives to shift gas cylinder shops out of populated neighbourhoods or the main city areas,” he said.

The home minister added that the government had already announced compensation to the families of the Paretabad tragedy and was offering best possible treatment to the injured.

He assured the house that the government would not allow any “vulnerable and risky” trade activities in densely populated areas.

Compensation to heirs of street crime victims

The house again reverberated with the issue of growing street crime in Karachi when the MQM-P raised the issue.

Leader of the Opposition Ali Khursheedi of the MQM-P moved a call attention notice and demanded that the provincial government provide some relief to the families of those killed in street crime.

The home minister said that the government had decided to give compensation to the families of the street crime victims.

He also informed the house about the arrests of the suspects who were allegedly involved in the killing of young engineer Itteqa Moin.

“Let me tell you that the rate of street crime has declined to a large extent,” he said. “For instance, the crime rate has declined significantly compared to what it was in January 2024. The police have geared up its efforts and the government has also made immediate moves.”

He said that during the past few weeks, raids were conducted on 367 shops involved in trade of stolen stuff. “Similarly, we have also strengthened the investigation and prosecution against the arrested suspects. A total 69 officers have been dedicated for the investigation and prosecution of street crime suspects,” he said.

Frequent rise in life-saving medicine prices

In her adjournment motion, PPP’s Khairunnisa Mughal raised the issue of continuous increase in the prices of life-saving medicines across the country.

However, Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho defended the price hike, saying the cost of raw material had increased.

She was of the view that drug prices were being regulated by Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP).

The minister feared that pharmaceutical companies might leave the country if prices of medicines decreased as they already informed the government that it was not feasible for them to supply medicines on a lower rate.

The PPP lawmaker took back her motion after the health minister’s response.

Property tax law amended

The Sindh Assembly unanimously passed the Sindh Urban Immovable Property Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2024, allowing the cantonment boards to collect property tax within their respective limits and transfer the collected revenue to the provincial government after deducting their two per cent service charges.

The move came after the Sindh cabinet last month approved the draft of the bill in view of the Supreme Court’s April 23 order that had directed the provincial government to enact a law within three months to bring to end a controversy as to whether the provincial government or the cantonment boards in Karachi will assess and collect the urban property tax from the residents of the cantonment areas.

After the 18th Amendment, the federal government and cantonment boards do not have any competence, power and jurisdiction to levy, charge, impose and recover taxes on any immovable property including tax on the annual rental value of immoveable property.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2024

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