KARACHI: The action may have taken place in Islamabad but the Sindh Assembly was in party mode on Monday when it met to pass a resolution to celebrate the passage of the 18th Amendment.
So celebratory was the mood that Deputy Speaker Shahla Raza told Nusrat Saher Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional to refrain from “discussing” the lawmaking and only “comment” on it.
Abbasi had said that she appreciated the effort but some articles needed a complete study. For example, she said, it did not mention how Sindh will get its share of the royalties from oil and gas. Despite Raza’s advice, Abbasi continued to say that there were certain confusing points that needed to be clarified. Members of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) started to cry out in protest and demanded the Deputy Speaker give another MPA a turn to speak. Law minister Ayaz Soomro chose to say that those people who opposed the amendment were not “fully aware” of it. The House unanimously passed its resolution to felicitate the 18th Amendment and paid tribute to the president, prime minister and constitutional committee for its nine month deliberations. In emotional speeches, members of the assembly sought exemplary punishment for former president Pervez Mushrraf, holding him responsible for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
The resolution was moved jointly by legislators from the PPP, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, National Peoples Party (NPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Q. Each member was given time to shed light on the lawmaking and most of them described it as a success for democracy and a defeat for dictatorship. Education minister Pir Mazharul Haq recalled the words of Benazir Bhutto, that ‘Democracy was the best revenge’. We have had our revenge by repealing amendments made by dictators for whom the doors had now been closed.
This was the first time in the history of Pakistan that the State’s responsibility was acknowledged insofar as it had to provide education to children from the ages of six to 14. On oil and gas, Haq said that Sindh would get 50 per cent of its share and people from the resource-rich areas would get gas, electricity and water connections. Sindh has further benefited from the changes to the law as previously the president and governors were all powerful. Now the powers of decision making have been handed to the chief minister.
The ANP’s Ameer Nawab thanked all the political parties for passing the amendment that allowed for the NWFP’s name to be changed to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Khalid Ahmed of the MQM said that if this kind of consensus had existed among parties earlier on, then Pakistan would not have lost Bangladesh. Minority MPA Saleem Khokhar appreciated the increase in four seats in the Senate but expressed his concern that the blasphemy law promulgated by General Ziaul Haq was still in the books.
An MPA from Thar said on a point of order that people in his constituency had to buy medicines from the market when they should be helped at the basic health units.
He also brought up the issue of a shortage of staff at hospitals and a lack of electricity at them. MQM MPA Heer Ismail Soho pointed out that many doctors just sat at home and still collected their salaries. Humera Alwani brought up the severe shortage of the snake-bite antidote in Thatta. This area also had a shortage of medicines that were desperately needed by people suffering from Hepatitis. Health minister Dr Sagheer Ahmed responded to a question, saying that he had initiated an inquiry aginst ‘ghost’ doctors. Also, more than 2.2 million people have been vaccinated so far against Hepatitis B and C. MPA Nadeem Bhutto brought up the Manora Cantonment Board that is trying to take over centuries old fishing villages.
Education minister Haq grew emotional when MPA Marvi Raja brought up serious mistakes in the syllabus prepared by the Sindh Text Book Board. She said that there were mistakes in the lesson on Mirza Kaleech Baig. Haq snapped back that she was complaining because he had refused her brother a job. Raja stood up and denied the allegation, but the deputy speaker told them to avoid using the floor of the House for such matters. MPA Arif Mustafa Jatoi brought up teacher appointments and said that many fake orders have been issued in different districts in violation of the principle of merit.
The education minister responded saying that he would suspend the official concerned if anyone could produce proof of a fake order. “There are allegations against us and honorable members should avoid talking on these issues,” he said. “This is nothing else but an attempt to discourage donors who finance the Sindh Education Ministry.” The House, which started one and a half hours late, passed the resolution by a thumping majority following which the deputy speaker adjourned it till Tuesday 9:30 am.
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