The Sindh Assembly closed up shop for an indefinite period on Wednesday after a mere two-day session, but there was a considerable deal for MPAs to ponder over.
The performance of the Anti-Corruption Establishment was on the agenda during the Question and Answers session. Sindh Anti-Corruption Minister Abdul Haq Bhurt looked entirely unprepared for the volley of questions that came his way, mostly from MPAs who asked why there had been no prosecutions for officials implicated in corruption cases. Moreover, even a case from Hyderabad involving misappropriation of Rs4 million is still in preliminary investigation stage, though the FIR was registered in 2011.
The minister was also unable to say whether the government had suspended any of the officials implicated in the cases while there were enquiries pending against them, a point raised by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MPA Humera Alwani. Alwani said that officers “continue their corruption” because they are not suspended or let go.
As far as the prosecution was concerned, Bhurt retorted that this was up to the courts, not him. Sindh Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ayaz Soomro had to assist Bhurt with questions on how investigations are conducted, while Sindh Minority Affairs Minister Dr Mohan Lal helped Bhurt through the questioning by passing him notes. The Sindh Assembly was also briefed by relevant ministers on follow-ups to some of the biggest news stories out of Sindh right now.
Soomro told the assembly that the police officers involved in parading a couple naked in Ghambat, district Khairpur have been suspended and orders will be issued to fire them. He also said that a standing committee of the Sindh Assembly was preparing a report on hiring teachers who are currently working on a contractual basis.
Daya Ram Essarani, the wildlife minister, told the assembly that the department had been tracking the deaths of peacocks in Tharparkar since the first case was reported.
However, Essarani said only “38 mortalities had been confirmed, and 30 more birds are sick.” He said that the department had also started a public service campaign through the media and that the Newcastle virus was ‘incurable’. He said that according to an unofficial survey, there were 70,000 peacocks in the Tharparkar area.
Sindh Culture Minister Sassui Palijo also briefed the assembly on the status of the Gandhara artefacts seized in Karachi last month. “It has been reported in the media about why the statues are being kept outside the museum and not inside. They weigh a ton and more and we are still in the process of verifying how many of them are real. An expert has said that perhaps 40 to 50 per cent are genuine and the others are fake. We have asked for a report to be submitted in 10 days and will also display the artefacts after Eid,” Palijo said. She offered assurances that the government will ensure the security of the artefacts.
The assembly also passed a bill for the establishment of the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Sakrand. The Sindh Assembly was prorogued for an indefinite period.
While Sindh Assembly Speaker Nisar Khuhro did not allow PPP MPA Imdad Pitafi to speak about the judiciary within the hall, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon defended the PPP’s stance outside the assembly. According to Memon, there was a “conspiracy against democracy”. Memon also hit out at the Supreme Court issuing a contempt of court notice to Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and summoning him to appear in person.
“This is what we could expect from a PCO judge,” Memon said, referring to the Provisional Constitutional Order from the Musharraf era. “The president has immunity under the constitution and we cannot write a letter to the Swiss in violation of that,” he said. “In cases where there is immunity, there is contempt [notice] after contempt [notice.” “We will not change the constitution on someone’s agenda,” Memon said.
The information minister also denied that the government would be looking into replacing the Supreme Court chief justice. “We’ve waited so long, we can wait for longer,” he said. “We will not repeat what Musharraf did.”
However, Memon said that the results of the reference against the CJP sent by former president Pervez Musharraf to the judicial council should be revealed. “Why doesn’t he answer how his son got so many positions,” he said. The minister also said that ‘government employees’ were sending the government home. “The elected representatives of this country made the constitution and there are a 1,000 of us who are ready to defend the constitution.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2012.