By: Razzak Abro | Published: January 22, 2011
KARACHI “Order…order…order… qanooonsazi huwa chahti hai…,” said Sindh Assembly (SA) Speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro in his customary style at the session on Friday in an attempt to bring the members’ attention to Law Minister Ayaz Soomro who had risen to present a bill.
It was not the first time that Speaker Khuhro requested the members maintain decorum in the house; in fact, it was the order of the day. It was almost as if the Speaker was the teacher in a classroom and MPAs his students. But this was not a classroom; it is the most august forum in Sindh and the MPAs were sitting there as elected representatives of the people.
Khuhro’s “order, order…” stunned all MPAs into silence, but the Speaker was not sure if he had their undivided attention. “Did you listen to what the law minister just said?” he asked a member; the MPA could not provide a satisfactory reply. The Speaker then asked all members for a show of hands about “who listened to the law minister.” Like a naughty class, the majority of members raised their hands.
One can argue that our legislators should not have been non-serious for legislation, but what stuns more is the standard of legislation. What did law minister want to table in the house? Technically it was “The Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University, Shaheed Benazirabad (Amendment) Bill-2011” and was meant to amend the original Act that the Assembly had passed in 2009.
Here’s what made matters absurd: the amendment was to insert a six-word-long phrase – “for a period of four years”. Our efficient Law Department tabled the amendments simply because they had “forgotten” to stipulate the precise span for a vice-chancellor’s tenure in the original Act.
“In all universities in Sindh, the tenure of the vice-chancellor is provided for four years, but this provision is not provided in the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University, Shaheed Benazirabad Act-2009. Therefore, it is expedient to amend the law to make such a provision therein,” read the statement of objects and reasons given in the bill.
A PPP member, Haji Munawar Abbasi did not miss the opportunity to taunt his party’s own government, saying that it was good to mention period of the VC’s office; otherwise an officer could have become the VC of the university for life.
“But what about admissions in the newly-established Lyari University?” PPP’s Shamim Ara Panhwar asked. She managed to divert the attention of the house to a serious administrative issue, one that is connected with politics. Panhwar’s argument was that the university has to start the admissions process by February, but there are still some administrative issues to be resolved.
Provincial Katchi Abadis Minister Rafiq Engineer, who belongs to PPP’s stronghold of Lyari, informed the house that Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah had discussed the matter with Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan last Thursday. The governor assured him of resolving the matter “within days,” he added.
Engineer, however, did not inform the house about hindrances in starting the admissions process in Lyari University. But it was at least clear that nature of the hindrances were not similar to the Benazirabad University; otherwise those could have been removed by tabling an amendment to law.
It was surprising for journalists covering the house proceedings that Speaker Khuhro invited several members, one after the other, to deliver a speech on the six-word amendment in the Benazirabad University Act. “It is a practice to kill time,” a senior journalist commented, alluding to the fact that there was no more business on the agenda.
Proceedings in the house on Fridays are usually wrapped by noon, but despite there being no business, the Speaker tried his level best to stretch proceedings for as long as he could.
In an irony or sorts, Speaker Khuhro had told journalists during his tenure as the leader of opposition in the last government that an Assembly session costs over Rs1 million per day to the public exchequer. The assembly is in session since January 7.
One can ask why the Sindh Assembly remains in session when there is no business pending with the government or the Assembly Secretariat. SA Secretary Hadi Bux Buriro says that the Assembly has to complete a particular number of days constitutionally required for a meeting.
A few days ago, a PPP member, Jam Tamachi, has protested on the manner in which the Assembly was in session. He termed it a waste of time, and suggested parliamentary leaders of all political parties agree on fixing days to debate the burning issues that afflict the masses. Sadly, there seems to have been no follow up to his suggestion, and public exchequer is losing Rs1 million every per day.