Sindh’s legislators have managed to pass a bill to set up the Thar Coal and Energy Board, despite initial opposition.
During the Sindh Assembly session on Wednesday, the opposition called the bill a “black law” but later realised that they were being overly critical. The bill, moved by Law and Tourism Minister Ayaz Soomro, was passed unanimously.
The law minister was in the middle of listing the benefits of Thar coal reserves when Pakistan Muslim League - Functional’s (PML-F) Nusrat Saher Abbasi complained that most of the federal ministers and bureaucrats were appointed members of the board, which meant that it would be run directly by the federal government. “You are appeasing the Centre by handing over Sindh’s reserves,” she told Soomro.
She supported her argument by saying that the Sindh Coal Authority, established by Benazir Bhutto existed and hence there was no need for another board.
Given that the issue has been taken to court and the judgement was reserved, Abbasi said that it was contempt of court. Katchi Abadis Minister Rafique Engineer clarified that since the court had not stopped the government from setting up the energy board, it did not qualify as contempt.
Clarifying the government’s stance, Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon said that the board has already been set up under the chief minister.
The federal water and power minister has been appointed its vice chairman and its other members are three provincial ministers, the federal ministers for law and finance, a woman MNA from Thar, the planning commission’s deputy chairman, the water and power ministry’s secretary, the Sindh chief secretary and the coal and energy development’s secretary department.
“How can these people say that the federal government controls it [Thar Coal and Energy Board]? It will be independent and there would be no interference from the Centre.”
PML-Q’s Abdul Razzaque Rahimoon pointed out, however, that since the board’s establishment, not a single member from Thar has been nominated.
Finance Minister Murad Ali Shah justified the bill by saying that since electricity is a federal subject, it is necessary to have members from the federal government as it could help with international investment.
Soomro pointed out that the government would soon bring a Sindh Coal Act in order to give ownership rights to the province over its coal reserves. Giving in to the arguments, Opposition Leader Jam Madad Ali said that they had always supported the government in matters of public interest and they did not want to create unrest on the floor of the House.
The House also passed the Zulfikarabad Development Authority Bill to empower the chief minister to appoint any member as a vice chairman or a secretary.
The law minister also moved a motion to pass the Sindh Hotels and Restaurant Bill, 2011, to control and regulate the standards of services and amenities for tourists. Several members wanted to make amendments, which led to a debate. In the end, the motion was deferred till Friday.
Fisheries Minister Zahid Ali Bhurgari said that they were coordinating with meteorological experts in Islamabad who have yet to confirm whether or not the cyclone will hit the coast. “We have not issued a warning to fishermen and can only do this after a confirmation by the Met office.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2011.