KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly session, which had been ongoing for the last three months, was finally prorogued on Friday.
The session, which was summoned on September 13, was one of the longest in the assembly's history, with the opposition parties repeatedly complaining that it was being run to facilitate some members of the ruling party. They were referring to Sindh Assembly speaker Agha Siraj Durrani and PPP MPA Faryal Talpur - both of whom were recently granted bail in corruption and money laundering cases. Three days after the two political leaders were granted bail, the session was prorogued indefinitely.
"The government was not serious about making any legislations, save a few. The three months' proceedings were allowed to continue to facilitate Durrani and Talpur, who would hold meetings with party workers in their chambers," said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MPA Jamal Siddiqui.
Another lawmaker claimed that the session had been continued simply to meet the political objectives of issuing production orders for the MPAs in NAB custody so that they could attend the session at the cost of taxpayers' money.
The cost of a session
According to members of the opposition, each day of the session costs the taxpayer around Rs5 million. This figure includes various allowances given to MPAs and assembly staff, electricity bills, stationery expenses and other overheads.
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"There are a total of 168 MPAs. Whenever the assembly is in session, each MPA belonging to a rural area is entitled to get Rs7,000 as daily allowance which includes accommodation and entertainment costs," an official working in the Sindh Assembly's accounts department explained to The Express Tribune. "Besides, Rs20 per kilometre is given to those MPAs travelling to Karachi from various districts as travel allowance. All this is besides the monthly consolidated salary of each MPA, which stands at Rs147,000."
On Friday, as the proceedings started with deputy speaker Rehana Leghari in the chair, question answers relating to the Zakat and Ushr department were on the agenda. Since the minister for Zakat, Anwar Sohail Siyal, was not present in the house, the parliamentary secretary of the department, Heer Ismail Soho, responded to the MPAs' questions.
There was thin attendance in the house. Arif Mustafa Jatoi of the Grand Democratic Alliance drew the deputy speaker's attention towards the lack of quorum and said, "The treasury benches are empty. It looks like the provincial government is on leave. Please give us leave too if the government is not interested in running the proceedings."
In response, the deputy speaker said, "Wait for a moment. We are going to give you leave too," before reading out the Sindh governor's message to prorogue the session for an indefinite time.
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The call-attention notices moved by MPAs on issues of public importance and an adjournment motion tabled by Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal MPA Abdul Rashid on the pathetic condition of the Pakistan Steel Mills were among other items on the agenda, which could not be discussed.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Sindh Assembly Secretary GM Umer Farooq said that the provincial assembly had passed many important law and resolutions during the last three months. He referred to the law against gutka and mainpuri and the rights given to women in the agriculture sector. "I cannot give you the exact number of laws and resolutions adopted by the house in the last three months, but it stands in the dozens," he remarked.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2019.