KARACHI: An argument over the shortage of drinking water in Hyderabad took up the entire Sindh Assembly session on Friday when most of the agenda could not be taken up.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) lawmakers, Dilawar Qureshi and Sabir Qaimkhani, raised the issue of water shortage in Hyderabad as soon as Friday's session began with speaker Agha Siraj Durrani in chair. "There is a severe water shortage in Hyderabad and I want to say a few words on it," said Qaimkhani, soon after the Fateha ended.
Durrani assured him the matter will be taken up once the House took care of the issues on the agenda. Soon after the question-answer session ended, the MQM lawmakers raised the water shortage issue once again. Durrani repeated his earlier statement but 10 of the 11 MQM lawmakers stood up and insisted the matter be taken up immediately. MQM’s parliamentary leader Syed Sardar Ahmed kept sitting on his seat.
"It looks like you are dictating to me. I am the speaker and I will not succumb to your pressure," said Durrani, directing the staff to switch off the microphones of the protesting MPAs.
Ignoring the protesting MPAs standing near his podium, Durrani asked Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MPA Khurram Sher Zaman to read his call-attention notice pertaining to the water shortage in his constituency, PS-112 Clifton. Initially, Zaman refused to read his notice in the disorderly House. "They [MQM MPAs] are protesting under a conspiracy to kill my notice," he said, before giving in and reading it aloud. Local government minister Jam Khan Shoro assured the PTI MPA that the water issue will be resolved.
On the protesting MQM MPAs, Shoro claimed that he knew the real intentions behind the protest. MQM actually wants to release salaries to their ghost employees working in Hyderabad municipal bodies, he claimed. "I have stopped the salaries of all ghost employees and they are pressurising me to release salaries to their people," he added. "The days are gone when some people used to establish the writ of 'ghunda gardi [hooliganism]."
Shoro said he will release the salaries when these employees come to work. He went on to claim that Hyderabad saw the worst water shortage in its history when an MQM mayor was in power there.
Nevertheless, the MQM protest continued and ended in a token walkout from the session. They returned after a few minutes but some MPAs continued to protest until the session was adjourned till Monday.
Call-attention notices on traffic congestion in Karachi, jirga systems and education reforms were on the agenda but could not be taken up. An adjournment motion tabled by Imtiaz Shaikh of Pakistan Muslim League - Functional on the shortage of hepatitis vaccines in the province and a bill on the registration of seminaries were deferred.
Farm of red Sindhi cows
During the question-session answer pertaining to the livestock department, MQM's Sardar Ahmed brought up the issue of a cattle farm of red Sindhi cows in Mirpurkhas. "Red cows are a rare breed and it was the only cattle farm of this specie in Mirpurkhas. Where is it now?"
Shoro, who also holds the livestock portfolio, was unaware. "There is no red Sindhi cows cattle farm in Mirpurkhas," he said. "This specie in only found in the Kohistan area of Sindh."
Ahmed told him he has visited the farm twice when he was the chief secretary. "Once in 1948 when I was in college and the second time in 1950s along with a foreign delegation," he said. "I think some people have encroached it." Shoro assured the House that he will look into the matter and inform the House.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2016.