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Split in treasury benches over islands project

March 14, 2013

KARACHI, March 13: The Sindh Assembly on Wednesday witnessed a split in the treasury benches when the issue of handing over two islands of Karachi, Bundal and Buddo, to a private builder was brought up through an adjournment motion whose notice was given by opposition lawmaker from the National People’s Party Arif Mustafa Jatoi.

After a severe criticism from opposition law makers of the NPP, PML-F,PML-L MQM and PPP minister Sassui Palejo of the reported agreement between the Port Qasim Authority and Bahria Town-fame estate tycoon Malik Riaz and a foreign investor, Thomas Kramer, for building a modern city, when speaker Nisar Khuhro sought opinion on its maintainability, Law Minister Ayaz Soomro opposed its admissibility, saying that the Sindh land was the property of the Sindh government and its people. The provincial government neither had signed any agreement nor it had been contacted by anyone in that regard, he said.

Mr Jatoi suggested that the house adopt a resolution reiterating that the islands were the property of Sindh and the federation had no right on them. But the Sindh government would not dare do so, he added.

Giving his ruling when the chair termed the motion out of order and rejected it, NPP and PML-F members staged a token walkout. They were also joined by PPP minister Sassui Palejo.

Earlier, Mr Jatoi called to have a debate about the reported agreement and the joint venture so that thousands of acres of land of the islands could be saved from turning it into an island city by the investors.

He accused President Zardari of giving the island to Malik Riaz as a gift in exchange for the Bilawal House in Lahore.

Leader of the opposition Syed Sardar Ahmad termed it a serious matter and recalled that there was a similar move in the past as well to allot the land to a foreign investor firm, but after its opposition the move was dropped. He said the federal government should be asked how it had signed an agreement on the land of Sindh.

Many members from both sides of the house started speaking at the same time. Local government minister Agha Siraj Durrani getting the floor advised the opposition to be at ease as the islands had not been allotted to anyone.

Nusrat Seher Abbasi said Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad’s statement was on record that President Zardari wanted to see the project completed on a fast track and an MoU had also been signed and its footage had been telecast on TV channels.

Cultural Minister Sassui Palejo said she had also read that the governor had presided over a meeting held to plan early completion of the project.

Speaker Nisar Khuhro asked the lawmakers not to make irresponsible remarks.

Another issue which resulted in indiscipline and protest from a number of lawmakers was raised through a point of order by Imdad Pitafi of the PPP regarding the silence of the Supreme Court after it had given a verdict in the case of Asghar Khan. Some of the members, including Mr Pitafi, recalled the statement of the chief justice that they (the court) knew how the judgment could be implemented.

Speaker Khuhro, stressing the need for discipline in the house, asked the law minister to write a letter to the Supreme Court, recalling that the verdict had been given in the case then why it had been forgotten and also to draw the SC’s attention towards the concern expressed by the lawmakers in the house.

The law minister assured the house that he would write a letter to the chief justice soon.

Mr Pitafi in his point of order recalled that the elections had been stolen from the PPP by forming IJI and the public money had been misused to unseat the government. He demanded that the interior minister implement the decision within 24 hours. “Our one prime minister was removed while the other was made to attend the court when judges said that they knew how their judgment could be implemented. Now why they were silent on the verdict of Asghar Khan case, he said.

Education Minister Pir Mazharul Haq said that when the decision had been given by the court, why it was not being implemented. The speaker asked who would get the decision implemented.

Opposition lawmakers Marvi Rashdi and Nusrat Seher Abbasi said the decision was not being implemented by the PPP government.

Law Minister Ayaz Soomro also referred to the new nomination form prepared by the Election Commission and described it as very complicated in which the details about children and other family members were also sought although they would not be contesting the elections.

When again some members from the treasury benches started a protest over non-implementation of the judgment in the Asghar Khan case, and despite repeated directives from the speaker when the order was not restored in the house, the session, which started at 11:30am was adjourned at 2:15pm to reassemble on Thursday.

Earlier, the question hour, which was on rural development, was concluded within seven minutes.

Leader of Opposition Syed Sardar Ahmad drew the attention of the house towards another statement of education minister Pir Mazharul Haq which was repeated on TV channels saying that Hyderabad University would not be set up in a corner.

Mr Ahmad said the land had already been reserved in Gulistan-i-Sarmast Society in Latifabad. As the education minister was not present, the issue was not responded and on arrival of Pir Mazharul Haq, the chair allowed Dr Saghir Ahmad to raise the point, saying that the charters were given to the university without mentioning the specific location of the university.

The speaker said he was present where the statement was made by the education minister, but the channels had only highlighted his half statement.

Pir Mazharul Haq said that no honourable person in Sindh would oppose establishment of the university. “I had only said the university would not be built in space, it needed land, but it was not mentioned in the bill,” he said.

After clarification from the education minister, Dr Saghir requested him to bring the university bill within two days.

The house also adopted four bills with consensus pertaining to The Sindh Coal Bill 2012, The Sindh Finance (Amendment) Bill 2013, The Sindh Institute of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Bill 2013 and the Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Human Resource Research and Development Board Bill 2013 while consideration of the Sindh Tenancy (Amendment) Bill 2013 was put off for Thursday.