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Uproar in Sindh Assembly over SMS ban

Published Nov 21, 2011 08:07pm

A view of Sindh Assembly session in progress. — File photo

KARACHI, Nov 21: The issue of a ban on obnoxious text messages by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority caused a commotion in the house during the Sindh Assembly session on Monday when a minorities lawmaker without seeking permission from the chair attempted to move a resolution against the inclusion of ‘Jesus Christ’ in the list of banned words.

MPA Salim Khurshid Khokhar raised the issue through a point of order but when all of a sudden he informed the house that he wanted to table a resolution, he was reminded by Speaker Nisar Ahmad Khuhro, who was presiding over the session, that he had not sought permission for it.

While the legislator was repeatedly asked to sit down, he accused the chair of discriminating against the minorities and warned that he would stage a sit-in against the alleged discrimination.

The speaker told the lawmaker that his remarks were not apposite and assured him that the matter would be taken up with the federal government and the PTA.

Lawmaker Agha Siraj Durrani had earlier assured the house that since the PTA was a federal institution he would take up the matter with the federal minister for religious affairs.

Over half a dozen legislators including Shehla Raza, Shazia Marri, Ayaz Soomro, Syed Faisal Sabzwari, and Rafique Engineer told the mover that Jesus Christ command the same respect among Muslims as the other prophets.

The situation was finally defused on the assurance that a joint resolution would be moved if the PTA did not lift the ban on the words, Jesus Christ, in text messages.

The proceedings of the day from 11.05am to 1.35pm remained listless except for a few points of order raised by legislators on different issues, including black marketing of fertilizer, a breakdown of law and order in Shikarpur, transfers and postings in the education department and power loadshedding in Karachi.

The privilege motion of Mir Mohammad Hassan Talpur against some remarks of former PPP minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza could not be taken up for consideration, for the mover did not press for it in an expected move to avoid a divide in the party.

Law & order

Nusrat Sehar Abbasi of the PML-F through her point of order drew the attention of the house towards the recent killing of three women in Shikarpur near the office of the district police officer. She said the police turned a blind eye to the incident and had not arrested anyone in this regard so far.

Responding to the point of order, Home Minister Manzoor Wassan admitted that  Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Kashmore and Kandhkot were among those districts where law and order was volatile.

He said that the incident, which took place in the first week of November, was under investigation and assured the house that culprits would soon be brought to book.

Mir Ghalib Hussain Domki of the PPP through his point of order recalled the Nov 18 incident when a group of people armed with sophisticated weapons crossed into his constituency (Kashmore) from Balochistan and fired rockets which created panic in the area. The attackers belonged to the tribes involved in an insurgency, he said, adding that people feared bloodshed in the area if such incidents were not checked effectively by the army and other security agencies.

Mr Domki complained that following the attack, he tried to contact the IG and DIG concerned a number of times but to no avail.

The home minister said it emerged that the armed persons belonged to the Bugti tribe who used to trespass the area from time to time and relevant agencies were aware of it. Yet he would look into the matter, he said assuring Mr Domki that he would also investigate as to why the police officers did not respond to the calls.

MQM lawmaker Khalid Hussain condemned the Karachi Electric Supply Company over power loadshedding for six to eight hours in the city, including industrial areas, despite the fact that weather had turned cool.

Sindh Minister for Power Shazia Marri also expressed her concern over loadshedding and assured the house that she would personally look into it and subsequently inform the house about it the next day.

In response to the point of order of PPP legislator Humera Alwani regarding Dr Nazia Bhutto’s murder, the home minister informed the house that in the initial inquiry her husband was found involved in the murder and a case was registered against him and his arrest was ordered.

Muzammil Qureshi raised the issue of transfers and postings of executive district officers in the education department from the interior of Sindh to Karachi where they were being posted on grade 18 positions which was a cause of unrest among other officials. He asked the education minister to take its notice.

When Mohammad Anwar Mahar drew the attention of the house towards shortage of drinking water in Sukkur and called for implementation of clean water supply scheme at the earliest, Local Government Minister Durrani said that an Asian Development Bank project was under execution to provide clean drinking water in six districts of Sindh. As soon as the funds were available it would be executed as a priority project, he added.

In response to the point of order raised by Haji Munawwar Ali Abbasi and Dr Rajpar of the PPP, Agriculture Minister Syed Ali Nawaz Shah agreed with the complaint of increase in the fertilizer prices which was being sold in black market. He said action had been initiated against the agencies involved in black marketing. Besides, a ship with 50,000 tonnes of fertilizer had arrived which would ease the position in the market.

Irrigation Minister Jam Saifullah Dharejo informed the house that enough water was available from Tarbela and Mangla dams for release in non-perennial canals for sowing wheat crop. Therefore cultivators should sow the wheat during the Rabi crop as extra water was available in those areas also where wheat crop was not possible due to paucity of water.

Sindh Law Minister Ayaz Soomro laid before the assembly printed books of appropriation accounts, government of Sindh for the year 2009-10 (volume-I and II) which the house referred to the Public Accounts Committee.

Mr Soomro also presented the report of biannual monitoring on the implementation of the National Finance Commission Award for the period of July-December 2010 as required under clause (3B) of Article 160 of the constitution.

By another motion, The Sindh Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Ordinance, 2011, The Sindh Motion Picture Ordinance, 2011 and The Sindh Sales Tax on Services (Amendment) Ordinance, 2011 were also laid before the house.

The law minister also introduced three government bills in the house — The Sindh Service Tribunals (Amendment) Bill, 2011, The Sindh Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2011 and The Sindh Madressatul Islam University Bill, 2011.

The speaker, meanwhile, announced that the governor had given assent to three government bills — The Sindh Government Servants Benevolent Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2010, The Sindh Seed Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2010 and The University of Sufism and Modern Sciences at Bhitshah Bill, 2011.

The house nominated lawmaker Abdul Razzaque Rahimoon as a member of the standing committee on public health engineering following the resignation of Mohammad Ali Malkani.

On the conclusion of its business, the assembly session that was summoned after a four-month gap on Friday was prorogued by Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad on Monday afternoon.