KARACHI: Opposition members in the Sindh Assembly protested during the session on Tuesday for not being allowed to speak against the delay in sugar cane crushing in the province. The House witnessed heated exchanges between the opposition members and Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza.
As the session started, opposition members sought permission from Dr Sohrab Sarki, who was presiding over the session in the absence of the speaker and deputy speaker, to speak on the issue of delay in sugar cane crushing.
"The sugar cane growers are on the roads in Sindh. Neither the crushing season has been started and nor has the sugar cane rate been fixed so far so we want to speak on this issue," said Pakistan Muslim League - Functional (PML- F) Parliamentary Leader Nand Kumar.
Dr Sarki, however, declined the opposition's request stating that he wanted to carry on with the agenda. The opposition members continued their protest with some of them shouting slogans against the provincial government. "Please don't dictate me. I can only give you a chance after the agenda is finished," Dr Sarki told the opposition. To this, Kumar warned of a walkout prompting Parliamentary Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro to try pacifying the opposition members with the assurance that they would be given a chance to speak on the sugar cane issue after the agenda.
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In the meantime, the deputy speaker entered the House and took over from Dr Sarki. "Please don't create a fuss on this issue. I will allow you later on," she said giving the floor to the public health engineering minister, Fayaz Ali Butt, to answer questions on the agenda. PML-F MPA Nusrat Seher Abbasi asked the first question about the total budget of drainage schemes approved in 2011 for various districts of Sindh. The minister, however, did not have the answer. "This question is related to old schemes. I have no idea about the budget," he said, adding that he would check and come up with the answer next time.
"It is high time the minister prove himself," Abbasi said taunting the minister. On this, the deputy speaker came to the rescue of the minister advising him how to respond to such taunts. This irked Abbasi who said, "It is not the job of the speaker to facilitate the government".
The PML-F MPA added that being the custodian of the House, Raza should act neutral. To this, the deputy speaker replied "Okay, beta [okay, daughter]" prompting Abbasi to start calling her "Ammi [mother]". "If you are using the word Ami then try to understand the importance of this word," Raza said.
The political wrangling continued till questions and answers came to an end.
After the question and answer session, the deputy speaker gave the floor to Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) MPA Heer Soho to speak on the sugar cane issue. Referring to the Sindh Sugar Factories Control Act, Soho said that under the law, the provincial government was bound to start the crushing process in the first week of October but the crushing had still not started due to which growers were protesting.
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Agriculture Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal told the House that the growers' issues would be resolved as it was done last year. However, The PML- F and PML - Nawaz members continued their protest forcing the deputy speaker to warn that she would adjourn the House if the opposition did not stop. The opposition took their seats after that.
Resolution against power utility companies
The Sindh Assembly adopted on Tuesday a resolution against the overbilling of power consumption, criticising power utility companies operating in the province and demanding the government for the establishment of a commission to look into matter.
The debate started when MQM MPA Rana Ansar moved a resolution against Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco). Many members belonging to opposition and treasury benches also criticised K-Electric (K-E) and other power utility companies for hours-long power breakdowns in the province.
MQM MPA Zubair Ahmed Khan, who belongs to Hyderabad, blamed the Hesco officials for providing thousands of illegal connections of electricity and minting money from them. "Consumers who regularly pay their bills suffer eight to ten hours load-sheddding and thieves are given uninterrupted light," he said. The MPA also referred to his recent meeting with the Hesco chief executive officer (CEO) during which he briefed the CEO about the involvement of Hesco officials in power theft. "Hesco employees earn millions of rupees from corruption and other illegal means," the MPA alleged.
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Khurrum Sher Zaman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) drew the House's attention towards Karachi city where consumers bore the brunt of inflated bills issued by K-E. "The power utility company knows that nothing will happen to it," he said, adding that the Sindh Assembly had also formed a house committee against hours-long power breakdowns in Sindh it did not achieve anything. Lining up of power consumers requesting for fixation of their inflated bills has become an everyday practice, the MPA claimed.
Calling power utility companies 'white eleplants', MPA Deewan Chand Chawla who belongs to Sukkur city alleged that the power utility company operating in Sukkur had broken records of corruption. "They are bluntly refusing to entertain our complaints," he said, adding that substandard and secondhand transformers had been installed in the city causing frequent faults.
Local Government Minister Jam Khan Shoro informed the assembly that the provincial government had paid all outstanding amount to Hesco, K-E and other power companies but they were still causing hours-long load-shedding. Kamran Akhtar of MQM and Saira Shehlani of PPP also spoke on the issue.
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