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Opposition stages walkout against deputy speaker’s ‘biased attitude’

KARACHI: Opposition members in the Sindh Assembly, barring two minor parties, on Friday walked out of the house, accusing the deputy speaker of “bulldozing” their business and showering “undue” favours upon the treasury benches.

The treasury benches, on the other hand, said members of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and the Grand Democratic Alliance — which collectively formed the combined opposition in the assembly — left the house on “baseless” issues having nothing to do with the betterment of their constituents.

Initially, the MQM and the GDA joined the PTI to march out of the house when all of them accused Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari, who was presiding over the proceedings, of not allowing them to ask supplementary questions during Question Hour.

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With the opposition — barring Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s Abdul Rasheed and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s Mohammad Qasim — out of the house, there was smooth sailing for the treasury benches, which took advantage of the conditions and concluded Question Hour early.

All the five calling-attention notices were filed by the opposition members and none of them could be taken up as the movers were absent.

Similarly, a privilege motion filed by MQM-P’s Mohammad Hussain could also not be taken up. However, as soon as the house was tackling other business, Mr Hussain returned along with some other colleagues and GDA’s Nand Kumar.

He demanded the chair to go back to the day’s agenda and allow him to move his privilege motion.

The chair said the time for the motion had lapsed.

Mr Hussain’s certain words were inaudible to the galleries. However, Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani requested the chair that his words be expunged.

The MQM-P lawmaker later stayed for a while in front of the chair and warned: “Now, we’ll tell how the house is run.”

Later, he fired a broadside at the chair along with PTI’s parliamentary party leader Haleem Shaikh as both accused her of forming “a dictatorship”.

The bitterness in the house emerged during Question Hour when Information Technology Minister Taimur Talpur was criticised, first by PTI’s Khurram Sher Zaman and then by GDA’s Mustafa Jatoi while the former was responding to queries.

Both sides exchanged personal remarks directed against each other.

Spelling bee?

Mr Jatoi insisted that the minister should spell out the word “science”. His assertion was regarded as non-serious for a parliamentarian by the treasury benches.

Soon, the opposition benches rose and protested when the chair jumped to the next question when, as opposition members insisted, they were yet to ask supplementary questions.

Ms Leghari said the opposition members could ask those supplementary questions in the next question as well. However, the opposition members did not accept her suggestion.

Leader of the Opposition Firdous Naqvi walked out from the house and others from his party, the MQM-P and the GDA followed him. Minister Ghani said the opposition’s attitude was “immature”, which instead of focusing on core issues was only confined to playing to the galleries.

Old and obsolete curriculum

Later, MMA’s Rasheed, on a point of order, pointed out “thousands of errors and mistakes” in the school textbooks.

He said the education department should rectify those mistakes as some of them were grave.

Education Minister Sardar Shah admitted that the curriculum was old and obsolete, which merited to be changed at the earliest. He said the syllabus was last reviewed in 2006. His ministry had held a meeting of the curriculum board last year and efforts were being made to revise and improve it.

“I totally agree with the member’s view. I have personally seen more mistakes and errors in the textbooks than Mr Rasheed,” said Mr Shah.

He said order for the current year’s textbooks had already been placed and if they had not been published yet, they would be revised on priority.

He said he had set a deadline for 2020 to revise the entire curricula.

To another assertion by Mr Rasheed about reduction of seats in the Benazir Bhutto Medical College Lyari, Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho said the issue belonged to the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, which regulates and decides the ratios of seats in medical colleges and universities.

She said the issue was not in the hand of her ministry to reduce or increase the seats.

About the nursing institute, she had ordered an inquiry into maladministration in the institute.

GDA’s Nand Kumar demanded early recovery of kidnapped Sukkur trader Ramesh Kumar.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Chawla said the provincial government’s efforts had reduced kidnappings for ransom and efforts for Mr Kumar’s recovery were already in full swing.

TLP’s Mohammad Qasim condemned the federal government for resorting to “victimisation” of opponents. He said the arrest of his party’s leader was against the Constitution.

The house fixed the debate on an adjournment motion moved by Heer Soho regarding “failure and apathy” of the Indus River System Authority in sanctioning Sindh’s due share of water on Wednesday.

The Sindh Zakat and Ushr (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was passed unanimously.

Plan to install 10,000 cameras in Karachi

In Question Hour, the house was informed that a consultant had been hired to prepare a feasibility report and PC-I of the project of installation of 10,000 cameras in the city.

Answering a question, Information, Science and Technology Minister Talpur said that the project of installation of cameras in the city was initiated by the home department on the orders of the Supreme Court.

He said that process of hiring the consultant was under way.

To another question, the minister said that the provincial government did not earn any revenue from the installation of mobile phone towers as the matter was under the domain of the federal government and did not pertain to the provincial information, science and technology department.

In reply to a question, the minister said that as many as 39 websites were being maintained by different provincial government departments.

Besides, he said that there was no IT training centre at district level.

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