'Democracy's funeral' comes to Sindh Assembly

PTI members bring in a charpoy covered in bed sheets


Hafeez Tunio June 29, 2021
Opposition lawmakers of Sindh Assembly march with a banner inscribed with funeral of democracy in Urdu during a protest at the provincial house on Monday. PHOTO: PPI

KARACHI:

Sindh Assembly is no stranger to uproars, but it was a unique show in Monday’s session as enraged opposition members from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) brought along charpoy with bed sheets, calling it the funeral of democracy.

The opposition took this step after week-long protests against the next financial year’s budget which was passed last Friday. During the pandemonium, the assembly also rejected the Sindh governor’s objections over the journalists’ protection bill and passed the law with a majority vote.

PTI MPAs, however, voted against the law. Tension prevailed in the house when some PTI MPAs entered the assembly with a charpoy. Despite the assembly staff’s resistance, the MPAs reached the house.

“Don’t touch me or you will have to face the consequences,” PTI MPA Sidra Imran threatened the security deputed at the gate. During the pandemonium, the opposition members chanted different slogans.

The protesting lawmakers also held a banner in their hands, inscribed with a slogan reading “Ye jamhuriat ka janaza hai, dhoom se niklega.” (This funeral of democracy will be taken out with a bang).

A scuffle also ensued between PTI MPAs and assembly security staff which was trying to grab the charpoy as per Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani’s orders.

“Take this charpoy and throw it out,” the speaker directed his staff. It was a tough job for security as opposition lawmakers were threatening them with dire consequences. “This is not tolerable. I will take action against those who have breached the privilege of the house,” Durrani warned.

Amid the noisy session, the speaker finished the question-answer session and other agenda items in haste. He asked parliamentary minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla to present the Sindh Protection of Journalists and Other Media Practitioners Bill 2021.

It was passed by the assembly on May 28, but the Sindh governor refused to give his consent and returned the bill with some observations. “A committee has been formed with funding from the public exchequer and raising money from other sources as well. Neither any finance committee to supervise income/spending nor any mechanism for third-party audit of government funding has been incorporated in the bill. An appropriate mechanism for the purpose should be included accordingly,” Sindh Governor Imran Ismail said in his objection note.

“As per the procedure of the commission given in section 13 (1), it can formulate its own rules and regulations which seems in contravention of Section 24 of this bill, which states that government, by notification in the official gazette, make rules for carrying out the purpose of this act. In the foregoing observation, I call upon the provincial assembly to reconsider the bill,” the governor’s note added. Responding to the governor’s observation, Chawla, requesting the speaker, said PPP believed in democratic dispensation and freedom and protection of media.” We have passed the extraordinary law, but the governor has created a stumbling block for it. Today, when we are considering this bill again, the PTI MPAs have started a protest,” the minister said. “This drama is against this law to protect journalists.”

Minister for Information Nasir Shah also briefed the house about the laws and said there was nothing objectionable. He asserted the bill aimed for promotion, protection, independence, impartiality, safety, and freedom of expression for journalists and other media practitioners.

Read more: Punjab govt killed democracy by dissolving LG system: Justice Isa

Later, the bill was moved in the house by Chawla and passed with a majority vote as some PTI MPAs sitting on the opposition benches shouted “No no, against the law.”

Chawla, condemning the opposition vote against the bill, said the MPAs actions had proven they wanted to suppress the media by voting against it. After passing the law, the speaker adjourned the session till Tuesday.

The joint opposition has been protesting since the budget was presented in the house. Calling it an “anti-people” budget, they staged walkouts which compelled the PPP government to pass the budget even without the speech of the leader of the opposition, parliamentary leaders, ministers and even the Sindh Chief Minister. The latter is the leader of the house and was supposed to wind up the debate on the budget.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2021.

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