Ruckus in PA as Haleem brings megaphone ‘to be heard’

Our Correspondent
Thursday, Nov 25, 2021

The Sindh Assembly on Wednesday witnessed an unruly situation due to the leader of the opposition, Haleem Adil Sheikh, bringing a megaphone inside the assembly hall.

Sheikh, who belongs to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), said he had to bring a megaphone to speak in the assembly as the chair did not grant him permission to raise different issues of Sindh.

The situation in the House turned tense due to a vociferous protest by opposition lawmakers after Sindh Parliamentary Affairs and Food Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla remarked that bigger thieves were part of the incumbent federal cabinet.

The minister made the remark while responding in the legislature to a latest assertion of the federal cabinet that 1.6 million tons of wheat had been stolen from Sindh. He clarified that such a claim had no basis at all when the total procurement of wheat in Sindh in a year stood at 1.2 million tons.

He said that an utterly false claim had been made about wheat theft in Sindh as a baseless briefing had been given to the federal cabinet in this regard.

Chawla said the Sindh government had also spent Rs55 billion as a subsidy to the wheat growers in the province. Deputy Speaker Rehana Laghari issued the order to switch off the microphones of the opposition legislators, including Sheikh, after they resorted to vocal agitation.

Commenting on the PTI lawmakers’ protest, the parliamentary affairs minister said the opposition MPAs had no regard for the parliamentary decorum during the session. The deputy speaker remarked that the opposition lawmakers had come to the assembly without going through the rules of the procedure of the assembly.

Sindh Transport Minister Awais Qadir Shah requested the chair to discourage using megaphones inside the House. He said that as the opposition had brought a megaphone in the assembly, someone would now sneak into the house with a weapon and the security of the assembly should remain vigilant to such instances.

The opposition leader said that an attempt was being made to render the opposition silent. He added that the chair had not allowed the opposition to move a resolution on the brutal killing of Nazim Jokhio in Karachi. He stated that the opposition represented 40 per cent population of Sindh and its lawmakers should be given the right to speak during the session as it was the norm in the Parliament House in Islamabad.

Sheikh lamented that opposition legislators had no representation in different standing committees of the provincial legislature. He alleged that the opposition had also not been allowed to speak on call attention notices during the session.

The parliamentary affairs minister said the treasury’s side in the House had no objection at all to the demand for opposition lawmakers’ representation in the standing committees and this should be readily done by holding elections for the purpose.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan MPA Khawaja Izharul Hassan said the conduct of the chair should remain neutral during the session. He urged the Sindh chief minister to sit with the opposition leader to mutually sort out certain issues of the province.

Meanwhile, the Sindh Assembly was informed that the provincial excise and taxation department would start issuing new registration number plates of motor vehicles having special security features on January, 2022.

During the question hour of the session, Chawla informed the House that around 175,000 new registration number plates were present with the excise department as the vehicle owners concerned had not turned up to collect them.

He said the excise department registered 175 cars and 975 motorcycles every day. He added that 12 branches of the National Bank had been collecting the motor vehicle tax. Chawla explained that the Sindh government had lowered its taxes to start the registration of electric vehicles in the province.

He said the Awami Markaz in Karachi had also been carrying out the registration of motor vehicles. Expressing anger against the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for not allowing him to speak on the floor of the provincial assembly, PA opposition leader Haleem Adil Sheikh has written to the president and the prime minister to let them know that “all democratic principles and norms are being violated in Sindh”.

Sheikh has also written to the speaker of the National Assembly, the chairman of the Senate, the governors and chief ministers of all the four provinces, and the members of the national and all the provincial assemblies.

“Due to the PPP’s authoritarian approach, there’s a civilian dictatorship in the Sindh Assembly, and the leader of the opposition hasn’t been given a chance to speak on the floor of the House,” he told the media at the PA.

“Turning my microphone on has become a serious issue in the Sindh Assembly,” said Sheikh, who is also the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) central vice-president. He claimed democracy is in danger in Sindh due to the PPP’s undemocratic attitude.

“Civilian dictatorship reigns in the province, and the last rituals of democracy are in process. People of Sindh are deeply concerned over the current undemocratic policy of the PPP.” The PTI leader also claimed that the PPP was already a security risk for the country but now it had become a threat to democracy as well.

PAC representation

He said the opposition neither has any representation in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) or other standing committees of the PA nor can they move a motion or resolution. He pointed out that minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla’s statement on the assembly floor in this regard was factually wrong. “We neither boycotted the process of forming the PAC nor did we insist on the committee’s chairmanship. The government didn’t present any proposal to the opposition in this regard.”

Missing wheat

Sheikh also took exception to the minister’s viewpoint on the issue of missing wheat, saying that it was reported in a cabinet meeting that 1.6 million sacks of wheat had gone missing from government warehouses. He said wheat worth Rs380 million had spoiled, rats had eaten wheat worth Rs14 billion in the warehouses of the food department, and grime and dust was mixed in the wheat being supplied from the warehouses to the flour mills.

Future of officers

Addressing the provincial government, the PTI leader said they should not ransack the future of the officers working in Sindh. “The PPP has put the future of all officers at stake for protecting a few officers like Hassan Naqvi, Maqsood Memon and Farrukh Bashir, who were their accomplices in corruption.”

He said the PPP has been insisting on retaining certain deputy commissioners and SSPs of their choice because they want to win the upcoming elections by exploiting their authority, as those officers have been used in the past to achieve the desired results.

He also said that civil service officers are good people, but the provincial government is turning them into controversial personalities by not letting them go. “What compulsion do you have that you don’t want to leave this province?” he asked, and urged the officers to abide by the rules and regulations, as they are required to serve in different provinces and positions across the country prior to holding grade-22 posts.

Land issues

Referring to the issue of the Nasla Tower, Sheikh held the provincial government and its officers responsible for the miseries of the victims, saying that the government is bound to compensate the affected families. “The federal government had provided the Sindh government with the funds to assist the Gujjar Nala victims but they’re not being provided to them,” he claimed.