KARACHI: The joint opposition walked out of the Sindh Assembly session on Wednesday in protest against an adjournment motion moved by the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) against the federal government's alleged intention to roll back the 18th Amendment.
Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani allotted two hours to discuss the issue, after PPP MPA Ghazala Siyal moved her adjournment motion. As the question-answer session came to an end, the speaker gave the floor to Siyal.
The opposition leader, Firdous Shamim Naqvi, however, took exception to the motion. "No one is trying to bulldoze the 18th Amendment," he said. "Please don't believe newspaper reports. The federal government and Prime Minister want to continue with it. Please don't waste our precious time by debating on it."
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PPP lawmakers referred to Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet members' speeches against the 18th Amendment and vowed to carry on with the debate. As the speaker allowed them to speak on the adjournment motion, the joint opposition members from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) started to protest and walked out.
Amid all this uproar, Siyal continued her speech. "Since the PTI government has come into power, conspiracies are being hatched to roll back the 18th Amendment and impose a presidential form of government in Pakistan." She added that the 18th Amendment, like the 1973 Constitution, was passed unanimously and the PPP would act as a stumbling block if anyone tried to bulldoze the amendment.
Referring to the concurrent list and the departments devolved to provincial governments in the wake of the 18th Amendment, she said, "This amendment is aimed at empowering the provincial governments, but unfortunately some elements want to end it."
Giving credit of the law to her party's chief, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, who was president of Pakistan at the time, she said, "With this amendment, the then PPP government also changed the name of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa from NWFP and all provincial governments received more resources."
Calling Prime Minister Imran Khan "Niazi", she said, "He wants to follow the mission of dictators by announcing a referendum on bulldozing the 18th Amendment and imposing the presidential form of government," she said. "We will prefer to die, but will not let him do it."
PPP MPA Zulfiqar Shah also lashed out at the PTI government for victimising political opponents. "The PTI's dream to rollback 18 Amendment will never come true." He added that the PTI was only working to appease certain quarters who were against the 'people's government'. "They are afraid of the 18th Amendment because it has given full autonomy to provinces by diminishing the role of the federal government and governors, who are said to be its representatives at the provincial level," he remarked.
PPP's Saleem Baloch said that his party would continue its struggle for the masses and no one could stop it. "The NAB and FIA inquiries and actions are only for our leaders," he said. "I want to ask why NAB is not arresting Babar Awan, Liaquat Jatoi and other PTI leaders facing serious corruption charges."
After the discussion on the adjournment motion, the speaker adjourned the session, announcing that the debate on the issue would continue today (Friday).
Earlier, as the session started with Speaker Durrani in the chair, the minister for jails, Nasir Shah, responded to queries about the prisons department. Regarding the number of inmates suffering from HIV/Aids in various jails, he said, "Around 84 HIV positive prisoners are languishing in various jails in Sindh."
When asked about jammers installed in jails causing communication problems in nearby residential areas, he said, "We can't give a date about when the jammers will be removed," he said. "This can only be done once the situation returns to normalcy."
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PTI's Khurrum Sher Zaman, on a point of order, drew the attention of the house toward the frequent incidents of police firing in which innocent people are being killed. "In the last few days, around six innocent people have been killed in crossfire."
He asked why a home minister was not being appointed. "The charge of home ministry is with the CM who is too busy with other responsibilities," he said, adding that there was no proper training for police personnel who misbehave with citizens on roads.
Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani said that the police have failed to control the situation and continue to defy the orders of the Sindh government. "All transfers and postings are made on court orders. In this situation, the police officials seem to be accountable to courts, not the provincial government," he said, adding that police personnel exceed their authority which raises such issues in the city. "There is a dire need to bring a law that can hold the police accountable for their actions," he remarked.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2019.