On Thursday, the Sindh Assembly session was quite unexpected as the issue of creating more provinces took a rather dramatic turn. Not only did the Jatoi brothers, Arif Mustafa and Masroor, of the National Peoples Party not push Speaker Nisar Khuhro to take up the resolution but Pakistan Muslim League’s Shaheryar Mahar resigned from his ministry post.
After deliberating on the bill moved by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in the National Assembly, it was decided that a special committee would be formed to look into the legal and constitutional aspects of the resolution. This committee will have four members from the Pakistan Peoples Party, two from the MQM, Jam Madad Ali from the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F), Mahar from the PML-Q and Arif Mustafa from the NPP. Masroor Jatoi will look over the final resolution.
After the question-answer session, Masroor, requested the Speaker to take up the resolution against the amendment to Article 239 (4), as he feared it would lead to the creation of more provinces without the consent of the provincial assembly. He explained himself to the Speaker in a polite manner and said that the resolution had not been picked up since Friday. He said that he was not alone and many PPP members had signed the resolution too. The Speaker heard him out and said that they had not opposed the resolution. “I still support the resolution,” he said while suggesting that they should form a house committee. “But there is a need to examine it in detail.”
Masroor Jatoi agreed and did not press the issue any further.
However, it was Sindh Food Minister Nadir Magsi who stood up and asked the Speaker to fix a deadline for submitting the report ostensibly so that the committee’s work did not drag on. This did not sit well with party members and Magsi was asked to keep quiet by the chief minister.
Responding to Magsi, the Speaker said that it was not possible to give a deadline. He asked the leaders to nominate members. Jatoi, who had been quite adamant to take up the resolution, seemed satisfied by what the Speaker had said. He sat down as members whispered about a deal between the Jatoi brothers and government over the upcoming Senate election. He refuted the rumours and said that they had no choice but to accept the Speaker’s decision. He added that they would take up the issue again if it was not resolved.
Alternative energy no more
PML-Q’s Mahar asked Khuhro for permission to speak and said that the issue of dividing the province was ‘sensitive’.
He apologised about his comments about Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah. He said he wanted to know why the CM and others wanted to talk about the corrupt revenue official rather than Jatoi’s resolution. While talking about the special committee he said that it was an assembly tradition to do so when an important issue was put in cold storage. He gave in his resignation and said that he did not want to be a part of the cabinet and walked out. He was the minister for alternative energy.
While talking to the media, Mahar said that he has resigned in protest of the government’s attitude towards the resolution. He claims it will break the province. He said that he would send his resignation to party leader Chaudhry Shujaat before sending it to Chief Minister House. Mahar criticised the government and said that the chief minister had set up a camp in the assembly for two days to convince party coalition members to withdraw the resolution.
According to Sindh Information Minister, Mahar presenting his resignation during an assembly session was not a good omen.
Minority MPA Saleem Khurshid Khokar moved a resolution to implement a uniform system of education in the province. MPA Rafique Engineer told the house that many Sindhi and Balochi students were discriminated against and not given admission. “It looks like Sindhis are aliens in their own province,” he said. “The doors of public universities and colleges are closed to students from rural areas.”
MQM MPA Sardar Ahmed refuted Engineer’s comments and said that every student had an equal opportunity.
MPA Khokhar also said that 20 points should be given to minority students for memorising the Bible or other religious book as Muslim students did for memorising the Holy Quran. The assembly introduced two bills for the protection of religious minorities. A resolution to name Sukkur Airport after Nusrat Bhutto was also adopted. The session was prorogued by the speaker.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2012.