KARACHI: After spending almost a month in the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MPA Faryal Talpur finally made an appearance in the Sindh Assembly on Monday, where she assailed the federal government for carrying out 'selective accountability', while lauding the decision to extend the tenure of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Talpur's detention has recently been a source of contention between the Centre, Sindh and Punjab governments. The latter was accused by PPP leaders of flouting the production orders issued by the Sindh Assembly speaker and not allowing Talpur to attend the assembly sessions.
Speaking on the assembly floor on Monday, Talpur, who is the sister of former president Asif Ali Zardari, said that the current government is harassing citizens in the name of accountability and tarnishing their reputations for political vendetta.
"A great conspiracy is afoot to harass people to a point where they lose all regard for the country," she said. "However, we will not be let down because of political vendetta and we cannot be scared with jails and false allegations," she warned, adding that they had faced such circumstances in the past as well. "We favour accountability only when it is impartial and indiscriminate."
Commenting on the Kashmir issue, the PPP leader said that Pakistan has so far only engaged in lip service. "We should have been more vocal in raising the Kashmir issue," she said. "We deeply regret the killing of our armed forces at the Line of Control. We are living in such circumstances that parliament is on mute mode."
Lauding the extension given to Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Talpur said that the PPP considered it a good measure as it would lead to the continuation of policy. She warned, however, that the government's political designs to harass the opposition would backfire and create difficulties for the government. "The country is being governed through ordinances," said Talpur. "I thank the speaker for issuing my production orders," she said, while also expressing gratitude to the members of the provincial assembly for passing a resolution in her favour.
In his address, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that the people who have been rejected by citizens of Sindh have now cast an evil eye on the elected assembly. "How can someone deprive us of our provincial capital?" he questioned.
The CM expressed these thoughts while commenting over the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MPA Dr Sohrab Sarki's resolution, condemning the proposal for the invocation of Article 149 for Karachi.
After the resolution was approved by the majority of the lawmakers, the chief minister, in an emotional speech, censured the opposition in the Sindh Assembly and said that the country was supposed to be run as per the law and the jurisdiction of respective authorities was clearly spelt out in the Constitution.
"As per the federal legislative list, the provinces are empowered to enact their laws while according to Article 79, all provinces are entitled to administer their affairs as per the proceedings of their assemblies," said the CM, lamenting that it had become a norm that new authorities and committees comprising federal ministers were being formed in clear violation of the Constitution.
The chief minister also criticised the federal government's performance, saying it was unable to govern the country. "It has been 10 months since we had our Council of Common Interests (CCI) session," said Shah. "The prime minister is not complying with the Constitution. Do whatever you want as you disregard the Constitution but the people will not allow you to work like this," he added. "Our gross GDP, which had crossed $313 billion, had now dropped to only $280 billion. We have not burned the dollars into ashes and it is only aid that has been powering the economy," he remarked.
The CM's speech elicited a strong protest from the opposition as they stood up from their seats and shouted slogans against the Sindh government. Responding to the upheaval, the CM questioned the etiquette they had learned from their leadership.
Earlier in the session, Dr Sarki presented a resolution, condemning the idea of invoking Article 149 in Karachi. He said that the federal government, while failing to do its own work, had been tempted to take over Sindh, considering it a piece of cake. "It is this [Sindh assembly] that founded the country and it is the PPP which strengthened the Constitution as per the need of the time," he said.
Dr Sarki recalled that there was a time when Karachi was modestly echoing with the slogans for Jinnahpur. "It was a time when the killings of 100 people a day had become a norm," he said. "However, no one felt the need for Article 149 at that time."
Enraged by Dr Sarki's remarks, members of the opposition resorted to strong protest. Meanwhile, Sarki resolved that every citizen of the province will remain steadfast in the defence of Sindh. "My grandfather passed the resolution proposing the establishment of Pakistan as he was a member of this assembly. It is the same assembly where Liaquat Ali Khan hoisted the Pakistani flag," he retorted.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2019.