KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly session on Friday was dominated by mudslinging, allegations and counter-allegations between the Treasury and Opposition benches, eventually ending up in a walkout by the latter.
The situation, which has been tense over the last several weeks on account of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-driven onslaught against the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), seemed to boil over during the question-answer session as the Information Technology (IT) minister, Nawab Taimour Talpur, traded barbs with the Opposition members.
JIT, not IT
As the session started, deputy speaker Rehana Leghari gave the floor to the IT minister to answer questions about his ministry. Arif Mustafa Jatoi, who belongs to the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) went first. “Give me district-wise number of training centers for promotion of information technology in the province along with terms of admission, cost of admission and tuition fee.”
In response, Talpur said, “The government has buildings, but does not run training centers itself. We have outsourced the institutes and support them fiscally.”
Opposition leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi, who belongs to the PTI, stood up on his seat. “I wonder at the IT minister’s response,” he said. “In this digital world where every country is focusing on creating IT experts, our provincial government has no training center.”
PTI’s parliamentary leader Haleem Adil Shaikh, who was seated next to the Opposition leader, aimed a jibe at Talpur and his party. “They don’t need IT experts, they need JIT.”
The Opposition members thumped their desks in appreciation of the taunt. But the IT minister was not pleased. “He is talking about JIT,” Talpur retorted. “I want to expose how he has encroached upon the precious land of famous singer, Munni Begum, in Malir. I am amazed that a man, who is the ring leader of a land-grabbing mafia and has only received 4,000 votes in the election, is talking about the JIT in this House. ”
The deputy speaker repeatedly asked the treasury and Opposition members to maintain decorum, but no one was willing to pay her any heed. She then asked Jatoi to continue with his questions.
“Can the IT minister explain the meaning of science and technology?” he asked next. This line of questioning seemed to further irk the treasury members.
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mukesh Kumar Chawla addressing the speaker, said, “Madam are these questions? I ask honorable members to ask the right questions.”
In response, Jatoi remarked: “He is not giving me a proper answer!” Other Opposition members joined in. “The IT minister has no idea about his department.”
Rephrasing his question, Jatoi asked, “It’s okay if he can’t brief the House about the meaning of IT. Can he spell the word ‘science’?” On this, the IT minister and some PPP MPAs called the question “childish” and started criticising the PTI.
This led the joint opposition to stage a walkout, leaving behind two members – Abdul Rashid of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and Moulvi Qasim of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, who opted to sit in the House.
As Opposition members left the House, the deputy speaker winded up the question-answer session and took up call-attention notices, most of which had been moved by Opposition lawmakers. Since no mover of the call-attention notices was present in the House, the deputy speaker winded it up in two minutes.
Only the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Mohammad Hussain and Kanwar Naveed Jameel returned to the session. Both MQM-P members again protested when they came to know that their call attention notices had lapsed in their absence. “Why did you abandon the session?” they asked the deputy speaker. In response, she said, “You were not present in the House. I called your names. No one from your side reached out so I finished it.” Hussain and Jameel walked of the session again in protest.
The next item on the agenda was an amendment to the “Sindh Zakat and Ushr Bill”. Moving the bill, Minister for Zakat Faraz Dero said, “We are making the amendment to constitute district zakat committees in each revenue district of the province.” After his briefing on the law, the amendment was put in the House and was passed unanimously.
During the session, MMA MPA Abdul Rashid raised the issue of “serious errors” in books published by the Sindh Textbook Board and said, “These books are taught at the school level. We have identified around 39 serious mistakes in different subjects. The words and sentences are wrong. I request the education minister to make the necessary corrections.” Education minister Sardar Shah assured that he would look into matter.
Before the session was adjourned till Monday, GDA MPA Nand Kumar Goklani returned to the House to raise the issue of the kidnapping of a Hindu business man from Sukkur. “Ramesh Kumar, a businessman who was running his car showroom, has been kidnapped three months ago. No one has traced him yet,” he said. “The incident has not only created problems for his family, but the Hindu community living in upper Sindh is worried about such kinds of incidents. I want to know why such a situation is being created. Is it meant to force us to migrate from this land?” he said in a high-pitched voice.
Chawla, the minister for parliamentary affairs, excise and taxation responded to him. “The kidnapping for ransom of members of the Hindu community was on the rise a few years ago. We have now controlled the situation. Chief Minister has taken notice of this incident. Hope he will be released soon,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2019.