KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly session kicked off with an oath-taking ceremony under the 18th Amendment, according to which Speaker Nisar Khuhro would take the responsibilities of the governor in the latter’s absence without administering any oath first.
A great many thumps followed the oath-taking, for which Khuhro performed the rites himself since the governor was not present.
Target killings were part of the main agenda of Monday’s session. “We are tired of burying our loved ones,” said the Awami National Party’s (ANP) Amanullah Masood. He said that he does not understand the government’s silence on target killings in the city that have claimed more than 22 Pakthun lives. If the real culprits are not caught soon then the ANP ministers will have no choice but to resign, he said.
A temporary walkout was also staged when Masood and the Labour Minister, Ameer Nawab, announced a boycott of the proceedings. However, both men were brought back by Shazia Marri, Ayaz Soomro and Pir Mazhar within minutes. Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah said that the government was taking bold steps to deal with target killings. All coalition partners, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) Altaf Hussain and ANP’s Shahi Syed, were taken into confidence over the measures being taken to bring the perpetrators to justice, he said. “Shahi Syed told me that he is satisfied with the measures taken by the government,” he said, expressing surprise at the ANP’s boycott.
“They [ANP] should respect the government’s decision,” he added. A Rs10 million award has been offered as incentive to people who can help in the arrests of those involved in the killings, said the chief minister. It was not just the ANP that lost its workers but the Pakistan Peoples Party also lost two of its activists, said Shah, adding, that they were ‘equal victims’. Rangers’ powers have been extended to three months, the CM told the assembly, adding that the menace of target killings will be handled with the help of intelligence agencies, police and Rangers. Later, Agha Siraj Durrani, minister for local government, stood up and requested the speaker lead a prayer for the victims.
No money for history
The federal government has decided to hand over 128 archaeological sites to the Sindh government amid the latter’s qualms about a dearth of money. “We don’t have enough funds to maintain 128 archaeological sites,” Sindh Culture Minister Sassui Palijo told the assembly, adding that the culture department would try its best to manage with what they have. The only people who seem to be attending to the historical and archaeological sites are land grabbers who have been encroaching on these sites persistently, said Palijo. The 128 sites have been declared protected under the Antiquities Act 1975 but the protection is only on paper.
Despite repeated requests the district government did not help them remove the encroachments, complained Palijo. One of such encroachments is at the site of the Kaho jo Daro, ancient ruins, near Mirpurkhas, MPA Nadeem Bhutto pointed out. Palijio reiterated that the ruins have lost their shape as people in the area have dug out and removed earth from there. She said that the department was enfeebled by the district government’s refusal to cooperate.
However, the chief justice has taken note of the encroachments and ordered that they be removed, added Palijo. “We have contacted the District Coordination Officer and the District Police Officer to ensure that no further damage is caused to the site.” The culture department has formed an archaeological board and started a survey to find out the current state of these landmarks. Sassui Palijo said that control of Moen jo Daro is still with the federal government. She expressed the hope that the historical monument would also be handed over to the Sindh government.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 25th, 2010.