KARACHI: Many in the Sindh Assembly suspected that Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) initiative for the creation of more provinces in the country was a ploy ultimately designed to divide Sindh. And these fears dominated the session on Friday when a majority of the members decried the constitutional amendment bill moved by the MQM, seeking to carve up new federating units in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In a rare show of unanimity, the public representatives belonging to different parties also opposed any amendment in Article 239(4) of the constitution as suggested by the MQM. The constitutional provision makes the consent of a province mandatory for the creation of a new province.
“No province can be created without two-thirds majority vote of the assembly concerned. This move may lead to a break-up of Sindh in future. We will not allow it. It is against the provincial autonomy,” said Masroor Jatoi of the National Peoples Party (NPP) who wanted to move a resolution on the issue.
Minutes before the session was adjourned, the members belonging to the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), its coalition partners (excluding the MQM) and those on the Opposition benches turned restive when the speaker refused to allow Masroor Jatoi to move the resolution.
Drawing the attention of the speaker, Jatoi said that he wanted to move an important resolution, which would not only benefit the people of Sindh, but will also take care of the concerns of other federating units. “The majority of MPAs belonging to four parties, including the PPP, PML-F, PML-Q and ANP have already declared their support for this resolution. I may therefore be allowed to move it,” Jatoi beseeched.
Speaker Nisar Khuhro and provincial law minister, Ayaz Soomro, were not impressed and wanted to defer the issue for Monday. “We also support it, but since time is running out and all members want to speak on it, we should defer the resolution for the next sitting,” Khuhro said.
But Jatoi would not budge and ignoring speaker’s remarks said, “I am going to read the resolution today and we can initiate debate on it later”. He started reading the resolution amid applause from members on either side of the fence. Thumping their desks, some of them stood up to express their support for the resolution.
An annoyed Khuhro signaled to staff to switch Jatoi’s desk microphone off, but he failed to deter Jatoi who continued to read his resolution.
The resolution moved by him reads: “This assembly recommends the Sindh government inform the federal government, National Assembly and other federating units that it is opposed to any amendment to Article 239(4), which was specially included in the Constitution by its founders … to give strong constitutional protection to the borders of Sindh, and that any steps which may facilitate the future break-up of Sindh will never be allowed either by this assembly or the people of Sindh.”
Besides Masroor Jatoi, Imdad Pitafi, Taimour Talpur, Pitanbar Sewani, Mir Ghalib Domki, Sardar Jam Tamachi Unar, Dr. Ahmed Ali Shah, Sharjeel Memon of PPP, Nusrat Abbasi of the PML-F, Ameer Nawab of ANP, Arif Jatoi and Muhammad Ali Malkani of the PML-Q are the signatories to the resolution.
However, before adjourning the session, the speaker said: “I have not allowed you, which means your resolution has not been tabled in this House. This will now be taken up on Monday.”
None of the MQM members reacted on the issue and listened to the proceedings calmly and without any interruption.
Talking to The Express Tribune after the proceedings, Jatoi said, “If the amendment proposed by the MQM is carried out, it will enable any federal government to create provinces without the consent of the provincial assemblies.”
Referring to the proposed amendment to the Article 239(4), he said that MQM wants to exclude clause (4) of the Article 239, which says, “a bill to amend the constitution which would have the effect of altering the limits of a province shall not be presented to the president for assent unless it has been passed by the provincial assembly of that province by the votes of not less than two-thirds of its total membership.”
Many members filed complaints against power utility companies, Karachi Electric Supply Company and Hyderabad Electric Supply Company, which according to them were charging exorbitant amounts from the consumers by issuing inflated bills.
MPA Khalid Ahmed of the MQM thought that KESC officials did not bother to go and check the metres in most of the areas. “They never even respond properly to the consumers,” he added.
Jam Tamachi Unar, the chairman of Public Accounts Committee, said that a bill amounting between Rs0.1 to Rs 0.2 million was being issued to schools and basic health centres when the actual amount should be between Rs2,000 to 3,000.
Sindh minister for power, Shazia Marri, said that the government had no representation in the boards of power utility companies. But, she added that, the power department usually constitutes a committee comprising of its members, members from the utility and the consumers to resolve the matter.
If the matter was not resolved then it will be referred to Sindh High Court. “We are thinking about getting representation in the boards of power utility companies,” said Marri.
According to the finance minister, Murad Ali Shah, Water and Power Development Authority even issued an inflated bill of Rs32 billion to the Sindh government. But it was reduced to Rs3.9 billion after the matter was looked into. Shah said that the government had cleared all dues now.
Nuclear Power plants
Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission plans to build four more power plants in Sindh by 2030 in order to generate 8,800 megawatts (MWs) of electricity, said Marri during the question and answer session. She said, a 1,000 MW power plant will be built right next to Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP). It will be a seven-year long project and its construction is expected to start from this year. A feasibility report of more nuclear plants was also prepared and one will also be set up in Sukkur.
Power House on Indus River
While replying to a question asked by MQM MPA Heer Ismail Soho, Marri said that the Sindh government made a pact with China for “Three Gorges Project Corporation (CTGPC)” for developing hydro-power Projects. According to her a delegation from Austria, of the Andritz Hydro Power, also visited Sukkur to explore the possibility of setting up a power plant at Sukkur Barrage and Rohri Canal.
Avoid using word Karachi and Sindh
Speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro criticised a member of his own party, Dr Ahmed Ali Shah, when he used the word “interior Sindh.” Khuhro suggested that the government issue directives to all departments to avoid using words “Karachi” and “Sindh” as an alternate for urban and rural areas. “There is no “interior” or “exterior” Sindh,” he said, and suggested that the people use “urban” and “rural” areas. The assembly members applauded when he finished.