Ruckus, use of unparliamentary language disrupt Sindh Assembly session

Energy minister exchanges harsh words with opposition members, fails to answer their questions

​ Our Correspondent September 18, 2019

KARACHI: Amid insulting allegations hurled by the opposition and government lawmakers at each other, Tuesday’s Sindh Assembly session, falling on private members' day, was disrupted by ruckus and commotion. During the session, which barely lasted till the break for questions, members of the opposition tore copies of the day's agenda and exchanged harsh words with the cabinet members. Consequently, Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani adjourned the session till Friday, September 21.

The session, chaired by the Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari, saw a raucous beginning, marred by lawmakers shouting slogans in unparliamentary language. The loudness of the slogans, coupled with protests, coming from the opposition benches, increased, when the opposition leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi was not given the chance to speak. Irked at not being allowed to speak, Naqvi warned that he will approach the International Parliamentary Union against the "misconduct".

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Responding to his warning, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla asked Naqvi no to threaten the government members, saying that he may approach whosoever he wanted to. He lambasted the opposition members for their "unruly behaviour" and said that they didn't want the assembly session to proceed. The trend of interrupting the speaker should be stopped, he said.

In return, Naqvi said that the cabinet members should work on their behaviour instead.

The pandemonium continued as opposition members kept on arguing with the Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh, who failed to provide satisfactory answers to opposition's queries regarding the Energy Department. When a member of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), Arif Jatoi, expressed dissatisfaction over Shaikh's explanations, Shaikh retorted that Jatoi visits him in his chamber where he would teach him the English language. Jatoi, however, refused to visit his chamber.

Addressing the assembly, Shaikh criticised the federal government for being unjust, claiming that it has been using expensive, imported coal for electricity generation but refuses to purchase electricity at low cost from Sindh. He said that the corridor for generating electricity through wind, extending to 40,000 acres, is present only in Sindh in the country. Sindh is currently generating 1,200 to 1,300 megawatts of electricity through wind, Shaikh informed the assembly members.

Shaikh was also criticised by the GDA leader Nusrat Sehar Abbasi for eating candy during the assembly session, which she said was against the rules of the assembly. Replying to her, Shaikh accused her of lying and said that he hasn't eaten anything.  Reiterating Abbasi's point, Durrani said that eating lollipops and gutka in the assembly is prohibited.

Abbasi asked Shaikh to open his mouth and show that he has not eaten anything, responding to which, Shaikh said it is better not to make him open his mouth.

Lambasting Shaikh for giving "unclear and incomplete answers," Naqvi said that the energy minister has no idea what the baseload for solar plants is. He said that the ministers should come prepared for the session so that they don't give wrong answers. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) members protested against this statement made by Naqvi, but were rebuked by Jatoi who questioned Shaikh's eligibility for serving as a minister.

With lawmakers wasting time in making snub remarks and pointless arguments, Durrani commented that a new record has been set in the assembly's history. It is for the first time that only a single question has been answered in 45 minutes, he said.

Naqvi attributed the delay to the ineligibility of the energy minister and his department. "His answers are unrelated to the question," he said. In rebuttal, Shaikh said that the opposition party and the opposition leader are ineligible. This earned him severe criticism and wrath of the opposition members who loudly protested against him.

Durrani omitted unparliamentarily language from the session.

Student's murder

During the session, the lawmakers also demanded an investigation into the death of Bibi Asifa Dental College student in Larkana and said that solid steps should be taken to put a stop to such incidents in the province.

Member of Muttahida Qaumi Movement- Pakistan (MQM-P), Mangla Sharma, requested the assembly to observe one minute of silence for Nimrata and claimed that she had not committed suicide but was murdered. She demanded that a detailed inquiry be initiated to investigate Nimrata's death.

Addressing the point of objection, Provincial Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho said that it was too early to determine whether Nimrata committed suicide or she was murdered. Assuring that a conclusion would be reached regarding her death, she said that the investigation of the case was underway.

Dr Pechuho also strongly condemned photographing Nimrata's body and sharing those photographs on social media, saying that the practice is "ethically wrong." She requested the assembly members not to make any speculation before the post-mortem report is issued.

Infants' deaths

Assembly members also prayed for the health of Dr Abdul Qadir Khan and former president Asif Ali Zardari. They expressed grief over the demise of three infants who died due to the non-availability of incubators at Civil Hospital Badin (CHB).

Refuting the claims that no incubators are available at CHB, Dr Pechuho said that the health facility does have incubators but all of them were occupied and this is the reason that the deceased babies had to be shifted to Hyderabad. “Parents too are responsible for the infants’ deaths,” she said.

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The assembly members also expressed sorrow over the death of a child in a road accident and demanded that those who denied ambulance to his family be punished.

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Speaking of the Mirpurkhas incident, the health minister said that it is being investigated. She clarified that medical superintendents of all hospitals are provided with funds for ambulance fuel. She informed the assembly that the medical superintendent of the hospital has been suspended and strict decision would be taken once the investigation completes.

However, she also clarified that ambulances at government hospitals are only provided to move patients and not dead bodies.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2019.


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