Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MPAs were rather irked on Saturday afternoon, when MPA Nusrat Seher Abbasi, a member of coalition partner Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F), pointed out that there were not enough members in the Sindh Assembly to maintain quorum.
The situation was defused when the PPP parliamentary leader Pir Mazharul Haq diverted the attention of the house toward an earlier ruling issued by Sindh Assembly Speaker Nisar Khuhro. Addressing Khuhro, he said, “Sir, you have already given a ruling that the proceedings of the session will continue without taking care of quorum. One should follow it.”
Abbasi highlighted the empty seats as members were speaking on a joint resolution to pay tribute to the late PPP leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Two hours had been fixed for members of the PPP to speak about Bhutto, and Haq had informed party members a day in advance.
Attendance was sparse on Saturday. Only 17 of the 186 members were present when the session started at around 11 am. But even though Abbasi pointed out the obvious, PPP lawmakers were miffed that since they were paying tribute, it was not the right time to highlight the issue of quorum. Forty-two members are needed to maintain quorum.
PPP’s Rafique Engineer said some members were trying to set a wrong precedent. Pointing out Abbasi, he said, “She must know that we are also talking about our great leader. Why did not she talk when this house was adopting a bill a few minutes ago?”
Haq criticised members of the PPP who did not attend Saturday’s session. “We have informed all the members regarding the resolution,” he said. “I will lodge complaints with our leadership regarding the attitude of our own party members who not only are attending the session, but are reluctant to talk on the life of the martyred,” said. Haq also praised the party’s female lawmakers, who were more interested in the proceedings than their male counterparts.
The education minister also pointed out that the lack of an opposition is to blame for the situation. “How can one maintain quorum since there is no opposition in this assembly? The seat of the opposition leader is vacant. We all are part of this coalition government.”
Speaker Nisar Khuhro said that according to the rules, any member could point out a lack of quorum, but the 42 members required to maintain quorum were in the house.
Saturday was the second consecutive day that members spoke on a joint resolution commemorating Bhutto’s 84th birth anniversary. The resolution was deferred to Tuesday since many members wanted the chance to speak.
The assembly also adopted a resolution that paid rich tributes to the iconic Sindh poet Sindh Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai on his 268th urs. A piece of legislation - ‘The establishment of the office of Ombudsman for the province of Sindh (Amendment) Bill 2012’ - was deferred and the session was adjourned till Tuesday.
PPP lawmaker Humera Alwani highlighted the baton charge of a rally led by Lyari’s residents on Friday. She said that every party and group has the right to rally and protest, but the police had baton charged women and children .
Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2012.
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