KARACHI: It was private members day in Sindh Assembly on Tuesday and lawmakers discussed various bills moved by the opposition. The issues under debate included VIP culture, education curriculum and the right to information.
The Sindh government rejected a private bill to discourage 'fancy number' plates on lawmakers' vehicles. Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) MPA Arif Mustafa Jatoi moved the 'Sindh Provincial Assembly Privileges (Amendment) Bill' and called for a law to issue 'distinctive [number] plates' for all lawmakers. He referred to violations of the motor vehicle law by various MPAs. "If our MPAs are fond of such protocol then let us legalise it," said Jatoi.
Illegal: E&TD takes off fancy number plates
According to Jatoi, the National Assembly, the Senate, and the provincial assembly of Punjab have amended their rules to include 'distinctive' number plates for lawmakers. "Instead of violating the motor vehicle law, we should make amendments to legalise it," he argued.
Parliamentary Affairs, Excise and Taxation Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla opposed the law. "There is no need to legalise the wrong thing, we should discourage it and will impose a penalty if anyone places a fancy number plate."
After these remarks, Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani put the bill before the house. It was rejected by the majority votes of the treasury benches.
Speaking to the media, Jatoi said that the Sindh government allocates millions of rupees on advertisements against 'fancy' number plates every year. According to Jatoi, Chawla's reaction to the bill was against his own government's policy.
"What is wrong if they legalise it by issuing standardised number plates for lawmakers? It is better than violating the law every day," he said, advocating for his bill. "It is easy to talk against VIP culture but what can we do when the government promotes it," he said.
Right to information
Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) MPA Rana Ansar moved a bill seeking changes in the education curriculum of the province. 'Sindh Education Standards and Curriculum (Amendment) Bill' was referred to the standing committee.
The assembly dismissed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MPA Omar Omari's plea to introduce the 'Sindh MPA Accessibility Bill 2018'. Pushing for the access of lawmakers to official information, Omari said, "The right to information law is dormant." He added that the bill aimed to provide lawmakers access to official data of public interest.
However, when Durrani asked for the provincial government's stance on the bill, Chawla opposed it.
Earlier, the assembly adopted a resolution condemning the attack on temples in Ghotki and demanded that the perpetrators be arrested.
"This house resolves that the provincial assembly will take solid measures to ensure safety and security of minorities living in the province," said GDA MPA Nand Kumar Goklani, who had moved the resolution.
During the question-answer session, the agriculture minister faltered before some of the queries put forth by opposition MPAs.
"How do you educate and inform farmers on the quality of fertilisers and seeds?" asked PTI MPA Khurrum Sher Zaman with regard to the awareness programme for farmers launched by the agriculture department.
After a brief lull, Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu said that officers of the department go and educate people in the field.
"What kind of punishment is there for vendors or companies which produce or sell inferior quality fertilisers or seeds?" asked Zaman. "We take action. Seize the shops or the company and cancel the dealership of those selling the products," said Rahu.
Special number plates to cost Rs0.3m
Unsatisfied with the answer, Zaman repeated his question demanding to know what punishment was given to those engaged in such activities.
When the minister failed to answer, Zaman referred to the relevant section of the law and said that there is a two-year sentence and an Rs10,000 fine against vendors or shopkeepers selling inferior quality fertilisers or seeds. "How will you take action if you don't know about the punishment?" said Zaman.
The session was adjourned till Friday.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2019.