Sindh MPAs get earful for flouting SOPs
House touches upon differently-abled persons, domestic violence, water woes
Lawmakers earned the speaker’s ire over violations of coronavirus-mandated standard operating procedures (SOPs) during the Sindh Assembly session on Monday.
As Pakistan continues to grapple with the third wave of the pandemic, members of assembly, who are supposed to be role models for the public, have been blatantly violating Covid SOPs. As many lawmakers gossip and communicate with each other in hushed whispers, with their facemasks off and without maintaining social distancing, this was not the first time that Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani expressed his annoyance since the outbreak of the pandemic. Moreover, they have been prone to bringing irrelevant persons to the proceedings.
“Time and again I warn [you], please do not bring irrelevant people to the house,” he said.
However, the lawmakers remained unfazed.
Dearth of data
Earlier, as the session began, Sindh Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla was in hot water as opposition lawmakers questioned him on the number of differently-abled persons in the province.
When Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) MPA Nusrat Seher Abbasi inquired about the number of disabled persons in Sindh, the minister was stumped.
“I am sorry, we don’t have [a] proper number. The data is being compiled and we will be in a position to tell about it by the end of June,” said Chawla.
After Chawla’s feeble response to Abbasi’s question, several lawmakers on either sides of the aisle suggested that work be initiated for the betterment of differently-abled persons at the union council level.
Justice for perpetrators of violence?
The women development department came under scrutiny as well when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MPA Adeeba Hassan moved a call attention notice and asked whether violence against women has increased in the province.
Acknowledging that violence against women has increased, Sindh Women Development Minister Shehla Raza evaded the question by stating that her department is short-staffed. Her department provides medical and legal support to victims of domestic violence, she said, without specifying the number of cases handled by the SWD in the past year or the relief it provided during the pandemic.
“We are running short of staff. The cases are reported at the relevant police stations and it’s [on the] courts to provide justice to victims.”
Non-functional RO plants
GDA lawmaker Abdul Razzaque Rahimoon drew the house’s attention towards the non-functional reverse osmosis (RO) plants in Tharparkar district.
“People are forced to leave their houses due to the shortage of water. Billions of rupees were spent on the RO plants with tall claims by [the government that they would] overcome the water crisis in the desert area,” said Rahimoon. He demanded to know when these plants would be made functional.
To this, Sindh Public Health Engineering Minister Mir Shabbir Ali Bijarani replied that there were maintenance issues, which was why some of the plants were not functional. “Two mega plants are also closed. We have awarded tenders to restore the plants,” he said, adding that as soon as they were finalised he would present a report pertaining to them before the house.
Separately, assembly approved an adjournment motion, moved by Pakistan Peoples Party lawmaker Kulsoom Chandio, regarding harassment of students in public varsities. A bill to establish an institute of music and performing arts was also moved and referred to the standing committee.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2021.