Durrani Saves PPP Despite Their Low Count in Sindh Assembly
KARACHI: The decision of Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani not to call what in technical parlance is known as a division — a head count of members in favour of or against a piece of legislation — in the house on a resolution of a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf lawmaker about Karachi’s water problems triggered a noisy protest by opposition members on Tuesday.
It is the prerogative of the speaker to call either a division or a voice vote for the adoption of any legislation, resolution, motion, etc.
However, it appears that the speaker chose not to call a division despite the opposition demand to save the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party a possible embarrassment since it did not have a majority when the PTI resolution was put to a voice vote.
The resolution of PTI lawmaker Khurram Sher Zaman about the water issues of Karachi was on the order of the day in which he asked the Sindh government to take immediate notice of an inordinate delay in implementation of two major water supply schemes.
His resolution said that the house had resolved that the Sindh government would take immediate notice of the long-standing delay in the two water supply schemes of 165 million gallons daily for Karachi and release funds for repair and maintenance.
Initially, Senior Sindh Minister Nisar Khuhro suggested that the words “long-standing delay” be replaced with “to expedite the work”. Mr Zaman agreed to this amendment and said that he wanted resolution of the city’s water problems.
However, it was Senior Minister Murad Ali Shah who asked the mover to amend his resolution further and the treasury benches would support it if he could recognise the efforts of the PPP-led Sindh government for solving the water crisis in Karachi. Mr Zaman, however, did not agree to accommodate the proposed amendment.
In the meantime, Leader of the Opposition Khawaja Izhar-ul-Hassan told the chair that the treasury members were not in a majority in the house and he should call a division to ascertain the number of those in favour of the resolution.
However, the resolution was put to the house for a voice vote by the chair to which all opposition members responded by saying ‘aye’. Interestingly, the treasury members remained silent. A visibly concerned speaker, however, announced rejection of the PTI resolution and asked minister Shah to read out the amended resolution.
The amended resolution says: “The house recognises the efforts of the Sindh government for solving the Karachi water problem and this house resolves that the Sindh government should expedite the work on the two ongoing water supply schemes for Karachi city.”
Amid the opposition’s slogans that they rejected rigging, the speaker put the resolution to a voice vote and announced that the majority had adopted it.
The PTI lawmakers rose from their seats and walked towards the speaker’s rostrum to lodge their protest for ignoring their demand for calling the division in the house.
The noisy protest and slogans forced the chair to call it a day at 3.30pm. The house will meet again on Friday.
Earlier, Dr Seema Zia of the PTI, Khwaja Izhar of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and several other opposition lawmakers supported the resolution and highlighted the grave water crisis in Karachi.
The opposition leader feared water riots in the city and said that over 100 illegal hydrants were still operating and the government had not taken any action against them.
Responding to the criticism, Local Government Minister Jam Khan Shoro conceded the water issue in Karachi and said that only 550 MGD water was available against the demand of 1,050 MGD.
He said that the government was working on an emergency basis to solve the water problem.
Senior Minister Shah said that allocation had been made by the Sindh government and funds were also released to the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board in July 2015 but not a single penny was spent on any of the two projects.
He said that the Sindh government had expedited the work on the K-IV water project and he had given the commitment that the government would provide whatever amount required for the implementation of the schemes.
Earlier, during his speech Khwaja Izhar referred to former LG minister Sharjeel Memon as an ‘absconder’ and ‘wanted’ ex-minister. Although he did not name him, Mr Shah lodged a protest and said that the former minister was not wanted in any case and his name was put on the exit control list as part of political victimisation.
The chair deleted the words of the leader of the opposition against the former minister.
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