KARACHI, Feb 25: The Sindh Assembly session on Monday was adjourned by acting Speaker Syeda Shehla Raza soon after occupying the seat as only two lawmakers — Anwar Mahar and Ali Nawaz Shah of the Pakistan People’s Party — were seated in the house of 168 when it began 45 minutes behind the scheduled time of 10am.
However, the opposition termed the adjournment ‘a calculated move’ of the PPP to avoid facing a strong opposition in the house and said the people of Sindh would not allow them to run away.
Outside the assembly extraordinary security measures were in place as in addition to heavy contingents of law enforcers, water cannons were also deployed.
In the house, after parting of ways by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional from the coalition government, the PPP strength has come down to 92 and the combined opposition has gained 75 lawmakers.
A majority of them often turns up on time waiting in their chambers until the calling bell stops ringing — an indication that the speaker has left his chamber to take his chair and call the house in order — but on Monday when the acting speaker took the chair there were only two members in the house. Ms Shehla, who was to preside over the session after a three-day break, could not control her disappointment and said what a joke it was that despite the late start of the session the members had not turned up to attend the session. Finally, she left the chair announcing adjournment of the session till Wednesday.
The announcement came as a surprise to the MQM and lawmakers of other opposition parties as a reasonable number of them were present in the assembly building.
Shortly after the session adjournment, all entry and exit doors of the house, guests’ and press galleries were locked and PPP Parliamentary party members left for a meeting at the CM’s House, while MQM legislators hearing the news of sudden adjournment of the session raised slogans and came out of their chambers to lodge their protest against ‘anti-education’ policies.
The protesting lawmakers passed through the corridors raising slogans against the government and staged a demonstration at the entrance to the main assembly building. Arriving at the podium placed on the steps of the building, MQM Deputy Parliamentary Party leader Syed Faisal Sabzwari told the media that million of rupees was spent on the session which was adjourned under a calculated move within two minutes after the entry of the deputy speaker in the house.
“February 25 would be remembered as a black day in the parliamentary history of the Sindh assembly as the session was adjourned under a calculated move,” he reiterated.
He said the lawmakers present on the assembly premises could complete the quorum if the call bell had been rung for a few more minutes.
He said the house could be adjourned for half an hour to meet the quorum requirement as per past practice, but all rules, regulations and parliamentary traditions were violated.
Mr Sabzwari said that they had planned to take up the issue of the education minister’s reported statement that he would not allow establishment of a university in the city of Hyderabad.
Over the past four years, the MQM had supported setting up of a number of universities in the private and public sectors, including the bill for setting up of the Lyari University and medical college in the public sector, because the MQM was in favour of promoting education, he said.
Replying to a question, Mr Sabzwari said that they had no enmity with the PPP. “We have supported the PPP and worked with them for over four years out of love for Sindh and in the interest of peace,” he said.
The MQM had opposed the NRO, issues such as Quadirpur gas fields and withdrawal of murder cases against criminals, but the PPP was taking anti-Sindh measures one after the other, he said, citing repeal of the Sindh People’s Local Government Act, 2012 and opposition to setting up of a university in the public sector in Hyderabad.
He said the MQM was against an administrative division of Sindh and wanted that the PPP should desist from taking measures that could drive a wedge between people. However, he said, as far as the MQM was concerned it would continue its struggle to stabilise democracy under the constitution.
In reply to another question, he said there was no contact with Education Minister Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq except an SMS that stated not one but the PPP would set up three universities in Sindh. He said if the minister was sincere why the Hyderabad University bill was not presented in the house though it was with the PPP.
Mr Sabzwari said it was unfortunate that the Tuesday session of the assembly, which used to be the private members day when the members brought issues of their constituencies for discussion and redressing them, had been avoided as the proceedings had been adjourned till Wednesday. But, he reiterated, people would not allow them face saving by adjourning the session in such a manner.
To yet another question, he said that the MQM could hold the talks with the PPP provided that the cases withdrawal order was repealed, SPLA-2012 was revived and the bill of Hyderabad City university passed by the assembly.