KARACHI: The opposition's protest on Wednesday in the Sindh Assembly forced the government to delay the passage of the Sindh Universities and Institutes Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 till today (Thursday).
Once the new law is enacted, the governor of Sindh will be stripped of powers as the chancellor or controlling authority of public universities and other degree awarding institutions in the province. Instead, the chief minister will be the controlling authority of the higher education institutes.
The opposition protested and staged a walkout when the bill was tabled. Terming the bill 'dangerous for higher education in the province', the opposition members appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of the issue.
Through the bill, changes will be made in the laws related to the governance of 23 government varsities and two institutes. Once the bill is enacted, the governor will have no role to play regarding the matters of varsities. All such powers will be transferred to the CM. According to the new bill, the CM will appoint vice-chancellors (VC) and pro-VCs.
Explaining the rationale behind the bill, Parliamentary Minister Nisar Khuhro said after the 18th Amendment, education was transferred to the provinces. He added that the Higher Education Commission Ordinance, 2002 did not apply to Sindh, as the province had enacted its own law pertaining to higher education.
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Khuhro said the office of the governor was constitutional, whereas the post of chancellor of public varsities was not a constitutional but a legal matter.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) - Pakistan parliamentary leader Syed Sardar Ahmed objected to the bill. Sufficient time was not provided to the MPAs to read the bill, he said, adding that all of a sudden, amendments were being made in a law pertaining to 25 higher education institutes. He maintained that the governor has always held the post of the chancellor of public universities and the provincial government was making a mistake by approving the bill in a hurry.
The government wants to take complete control of the universities and educational institutes, which is unacceptable, said Pakistan Muslim League - Functional (PML-F) MPA Nusrat Sehar Abbasi. She alleged that the government was trying to destroy education in the province,
Dr Seema Zia of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said her party would request the CJP to take notice of the new law. PTI's Khurrum Sher Zaman said the government was planning to hand higher education over to the CM in order to destroy it just as it had destroyed other sectors.
Leader of the Opposition Khawaja Izharul Hassan also joined the opposing voices. "The financial affairs of universities will rest with the CM while the admission policy will also be defined by the government, which means that only Pakistan Peoples Party members will get admission in universities," he said.
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The opposition members tore copies of the bill, raising slogans of 'shame'. Due to the protest, the discussion on the bill was delayed till today (Thursday).
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The opposition has resolved that they will challenge the law in court if it is enacted. Speaking to the media after the session, leaders of MQM-Pakistan, PTI and PML-F rejected the bill. Hassan suggested that the opposition unite to challenge the bill.
The PPP has three months left in power and they want to pass amendments in 25 laws, Ahmed said. PML-F parliamentary leader Nand Kumar questioned why the government did not want the opposition to thoroughly go through the bill if the government was claiming that it was a good bill.
Despite the charges of corruption against Dr Asim Hussain, the PPP made him the head of the provincial higher education commission, Zaman lamented. He added that the PPP was defaming itself and would not be elected again as the people of Sindh had started hating the party.
Meanwhile, MQM-Pakistan MPAs who later defected to the Pak Sarzameen Party submitted a resolution against delimitation of constituencies in the Sindh Assembly secretariat. The resolution, which was signed by Syed Nadeem Razi and others, read that the new delimitation was not acceptable to the people of Sindh. It also demanded that the delimitation be reviewed.
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The issue of delimitation was also brought up during the session. Objecting to the new delimitation report, the opposition leader announced to bring a condemnation resolution against it. Hassan termed the report controversial, claiming that many urban areas had been declared rural in it. He pointed out that number of seats in District Central had been reduced in the report.
Responding to Hassan, Khuhro said the census took place after 19 years and Sindh had reservations over its results. If any area under the control of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation had been termed rural, it must be reviewed, the parliamentary minister remarked. He added that he also had reservations on the report as new constituencies had not been carved out uniformly according to the population. Some of the National Assembly constituencies have a 600,000 population, while others have 1.1 million population, Khuhro said.