Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza is a far more relaxed speaker than Nisar Khuhro. But even Raza, who presided over Friday’s session, had to point out that there was too much talk and not enough action in the Sindh Assembly. This prompted Law Minister Ayaz Soomro, who was answering questions, to quip, “Faisal bhai has returned after a few days” while referring to Minister for Youth Affairs Faisal Subzwari.
So lethargic were the MPAs when it came to business that an exasperated Shehla Raza asked: “So so ke aarahe hain sab?” (Is everyone just waking up?)
During the rather uneventful question hour, MPA Dr Ahmed Ali Shah sarcastically noted that the British gave this part of the world a system of canals, railways and the law. “We’ve already broken two of these; we should break the third too.”
Soomro also had the answer of the day to a question about strikes and protests by the lower judiciary staff. “A high court peon earns Rs30,000 per month,” he exclaimed. “As a minister I earn Rs33,000, and MPAs earn Rs25,000.”
Surprisingly enough, Soomro asked for the session to resume on Saturday for the house to consider a Sindh Sales Tax on Services (Amendment) Bill. One could tell the MPAs were rather taken aback at the notion of a Saturday session, but Soomro pointed out that Monday was a government holiday.
The session was devoted to presenting resolutions for and lauding the late former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and MPAs, including Culture Minister Sassui Palijo, highlighted that they were keeping an eye on the Supreme Court’s proceedings on a presidential reference to reopen the Bhutto case.
Information Minister Shazia Marri took the microphone to complain about the Dawn group yet again, this time to critique its television channel for the way it reported on an event organised in connection with Bhutto’s birth anniversary celebrations on January 5.
As Marri talked, I recalled a New York Times News Service report dated April 18, 1977, on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, announcing religious reforms, including a ban on alcohol and gambling. “When a Newsweek correspondent rose to ask a question, Bhutto, with disarming candor, informed him that he had already read the dispatch that the correspondent had telexed to New York a couple of days ago and that he disagreed with it. Since the Newsweek account will not be published till Monday, Bhutto thus apparently confirmed the general suspicion that the government monitors outgoing news dispatches.”
In her briefing after the assembly session, Marri said she considered herself to be a part of the journalists’ community, and mentioned the sacrifices Pakistani journalists have made. She also picked on the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, saying that it now spoke of democracy and the judiciary but the party’s workers had once stormed the Supreme Court.
The information minister started her briefing by mentioning the late Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, whose first death anniversary was on January 4. Marri praised Taseer, who she said had raised the PPP flag in the face of opposition from the rulers of Punjab, and supported the rights of people from different sections of society.
At the last assembly session, Marri had mentioned that she wanted to present a resolution on Taseer’s assassination. But on Friday, there was no prayer for the late governor… or a resolution. When asked why, Marri said that she had arrived at the assembly late and that the prayer must have been missed out. While she couldn’t present a resolution on Taseer because those for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were presented on Friday, Marri said she plans to go ahead with it at a later date.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2012.