Strongly objecting to the inclusion of the name of “Jesus Christ” in a list of obscene words to be banned in text messages by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), minority MPA Salim Khurshid Khokhar staged a protest sit-in in front of the speaker’s podium during the half-hour Sindh Assembly session on Monday. After three ‘lengthy’ hours of proceedings in four ‘parliamentary’ days, the ongoing session of the Sindh Assembly – convened on Friday after a gap of 127 days – was prorogued only after half an hour on Monday without passing any legislation. “The PTA has severely hurt the religious sentiments of minorities through this act,” the Christian lawmaker said. Later, on assurances given by Sindh Law Minister Soomro, Electric Power Minister Shazia Marri and Youth Affairs Minister Faisal Subzwari among others, the MPA ended his protest.
The ministers assured Khokhar that they will contact the PTA authorities to get the words deleted from the list.
Practically, it was the second day of the session but officially the fourth, as Saturday and Sunday are also counted as “working parliamentary days”. As it was called after a long time and the legislative house has to complete over 70 remaining days in the current parliamentary year, the session was expected to continue for a longer period. Apparently, the session was prorogued after a short sitting due to the failure of allied parties – especially Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) – in developing consensus over ‘a new local government system’. Another reason behind discontinuing the session was said to be the unending chapter of former Sindh minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza that might have created a controversy at any time during the session and the ruling PPP wants to avoid any confrontation with its allies at this time.
Talking with journalists at the Sindh Assembly building, Sindh Law Minister Ayaz Soomro said that consultations on the new local bodies system are continuing and the MQM has handed over its proposed draft, which is being reviewed by the provincial law department. “The PPP has also given its proposals to the other party [MQM].” The law minister said that deliberations on the new local government system could take another 60 to 75 days. Responding to a question, Soomro said that no changes can be made in the current commissionerate system as it was enforced in the province through proper legislation. “Only the [Sindh] assembly can make changes in the law.” Sindh Local Government Minister Agha Siraj Durrani was of the view that talks between the PPP and MQM on the new form of local governance can take up to three to four months.
NO OPPOSITION LEADER: Drawing the speaker’s attention towards the vacant seat of Opposition Leader in the house, National People’s Party’s Arif Mustafa Jatoi asked Nisar Ahmed Khuhro to resolve the matter. However, the Sindh Assembly speaker skipped the question, simply directing the assembly’s secretary to make seating arrangements for the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional members as they have joined the government. Earlier, the supporters of former Sindh chief minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim had moved an application requesting his appointment as the Opposition Leader. The application was, however, not entertained due to the objection that Rahim’s party, the PML-Likeminded, is not registered with the Election Commission. According to official records, the former chief minister is still a member of the PML-Quaid and under the assembly record, the party is now a part of the government.
THREE BILLS INTRODUCED: Three bills, including Sindh Services Tribunals (Amendment) Bill and Sindh Madressah University Bill, were presented in the assembly on Monday that will be passed later. Speaker Khuhro told the house that Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad has given consent to the three bills – Sindh Government Benevolent Fund (Amendment) Bill, Sindh Seed Corporation (Amendment) Bill and Establishment of University of Sufism and Modern Sciences at Bhit Shah – earlier passed by the assembly.
MOTION AGAINST DR MIRZA DISPOSED OF: A privilege motion filed by PPP’s Mir Muhammad Hassan alias Babu Talpur against former PPP minister Mirza was disposed of after the mover did not press on the matter. Reportedly, Hassan did not pursue on his privilege motion on the request of PPP leadership.