Opp lodges complaint with Speaker over Shehla’s indifference

  • House passes Sindh Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education (Amendment) Bill, 2015 unanimously

Opposition members in the Sindh Assembly are generally irked when Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza presides over the House while they feel relatively better when Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani runs the affairs of the House.

“Sir, we feel a sense of deprivation when you are not in the chair,” Opposition Leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan complained to Speaker Durrani on Monday.

Durrani’s protest came after MQM lawmakers Muhammad Hussain Khan and Dr Zafar Kamali and PML-F lawmaker Nusrat Bano Seher Abbasi were inconvenienced when the deputy speaker was running the affairs of the House.

However, when Speaker Durrani returned and took his chair, the opposition members welcomed him by thumping their benches.

Addressing the speaker, the opposition leader said the opposition members felt a sense of deprivation when he was not in chair. Without naming Shehla Raza, he went on to say that the opposition felt as if a government minister was in the chair when he was not in the House.

Earlier, on two occasions, when the deputy speaker was presiding over the House, a couple of opposition members, Muhammad Hussain Khan of the MQM and Nusrat Bano Sehr Abbasi of the PML-F, stood and tried to raise some points of order, but as their microphones had been turned off, they could not express themselves. As a result, they protested but were rebuked by the chair.

The House met one hour and 27 minutes late than its scheduled time of 10:00 am. Nevertheless, the atmosphere in the Sindh Assembly seemed relatively friendlier on Monday as compared to last Friday as the government managed to get passed at least one bill unanimously.

Presented by Senior Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, the bill – the Sindh Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education (Amendment) Bill, 2015 – was unanimously adopted by the House.

Two other government bills, the Karachi Institute of Technology and Entrepreneurship Bill, 2015, and the Sindh Shops and Commercial Establishment Bill, 2015, were introduced but were deferred till Friday. Similarly, two more bills, the Sindh Allied Health Professional Council Bill, 2015, and the Sindh Bonded Labor System (Abolition) Bill, 2015, were also deferred till Friday.

During the question-hour, the answer to a question about the presence of notorious “Own Pay Scale” (OPS) officers in the Sindh government departments was found unsatisfactory by the mover and the speaker.

Dr Bahadur Dahri of the PPP had put forward a query to Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and the minister of SGA&CD about the grade-wise number of employees working on OPS in different departments at present and their non-return to the original posts.

The government’s reply to the question was “there are no employee of Social Welfare Department working on OPS.” When the mover of the question objected to this answer, Senior Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro replied that only 16 departments of the Sindh government out of more than 35 departments had sent their reports so far and that they had no OPS officers, while the reports from the remaining departments were still awaited.

The mover, Dr Dahri, reminded the minister that he had asked this question three years ago, and said why the government had failed to know the number of the OPS officers in its departments in a period of three years. He also remarked that in violation of the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s orders many OPS officers were still working in provincial departments. However, the speaker told Khuhro that the wrong and incomplete replies to the questions of the members would not be tolerated and asked him to provide the correct figures of the OPS officers in the provincial departments.

Dr Dahri again created embarrassment for the government and his own party, when he challenged an answer from Khuhro to a question posed by Nusrat Seher Abbassi regarding the drainage schemes for the Shaheed Benazirabad district.

When Khuhro told the House that millions of rupees were spent on these development schemes, Dr Dahri told the House that one of the schemes belonged to his area and he personally knew that not a single rupee was spent there.

Khuhro then told the House that he was willing to visit the area personally along with him and hold a probe if the development scheme was not being initiated.

When Heer Soho and Naila Munir of the MQM tabled an adjournment motion on deaths of three children in Thar due to shortage of food, Khuhro opposed the same. As Food Minister Nasir Hussain Shah also opposed it, the speaker rejected the motion, terming it out of order.

Similarly, Sumeta Afazal of MQM moved a privilege motion that the requirements of the assembly rules were being violated as the sessions were not being summoned as per the schedule. Khuhro opposed the privilege motion on technical grounds and the chair rejected the motion, terming it out of order as well.

Meanwhile, the quarterly report (July-September 2015) on the receipt of the province 2015-16, current revenue expenditure 2015-16, current capital expenditure 2015-16 and development expenditure 2015-16 was laid in the House by Senior Minister Khuhro. Later, Speaker Durrani adjourned the House till Tuesday, Jan 19.