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May 18, 2019

Sindh Assembly approves bill to turn prisons into correctional facilities


May 18, 2019

The Sindh Assembly on Friday, through a majority vote, passed into law the Sindh Prisons and Correctional Facilities Bill 2019 to transform the prisons in Sindh into correctional facilities in order to grant opportunities to the jail inmates to participate in a reformation process to become responsible members of society once they are freed.

The PA passed the bill on the basis of a report of a select committee of the House, which had reviewed the draft bill to improve it. The select committee was headed by an MPA of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Ghulam Qadir Chandio, and comprised lawmakers of both the treasury and opposition benches.

The bill was passed amid a protest of the opposition MPAs against the outbreak of HIV in Sindh. Sindh Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla tabled the revised draft of the bill in the House for its clause-by-clause approval.

The parliamentary minister thanked Leader of the Opposition Firdous Shamim Naqvi and other opposition legislators in the House for taking part in the deliberations of the select committee to improve the draft of the bill to transform Sindh’s prisons into correctional facilities.

He lamented that the opposition did not take part in proceedings of the assembly at the time when the bill was passed despite the fact that the opposition legislators were actively involved in the select committee that had reviewed the bill.

Later, a statement was issued by Adviser to the Sindh Chief Minister on Information and Law Barrister Murtaza Wahab in which he said introducing prison reforms was a revolutionary step of the incumbent Sindh government towards repealing one-and-a-half century old outdated prison laws.

He said the prisons were meant to be reforms centres for the inmates rather than torture cells. The law adviser also acknowledged the participation of the opposition’s legislators in this regard as they had immensely cooperated with the government to introduce the new law.

Wahab specifically mentioned the names of Naqvi and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan MPA Javaid Hanif Khan who, according to him, had made huge contributions to improve the law.

He claimed that Sindh was the first province of the country where a law was going to be enacted to transform jails into correctional centres. Wahab explained that the new law aimed at preserving self-respect of the prisoners so that once they were freed, they could live dignified lives and play a positive role in society. He said the Sindh Assembly had the honour of making rules for the welfare of the dwellers of the province and vulnerable segments of society including women, children and minorities.

Protest against HIV cases

Proceedings of the Sindh Assembly were severely marred on Friday as legislators of the opposition parties protested in the House against the outbreak of HIV/AIDS epidemic in Sindh. For a brief period, a scuffle also broke out as some of the protesting opposition legislators attempted to approach the rostrum of the speaker and their attempt was physically thwarted by the PPP MPAs.

Ugly scenes were witnessed when some of the provincial ministers and treasury legislators came forward to persuade the opposition lawmakers to leave the area next to the rostrum of the speaker where officials of the assembly secretariat sit during the session.

As the opposition MPAs did not leave the area, they had a brawl with the treasury MPAs near the speaker’s podium. The protesting lawmakers of the largest opposition party in the House, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), held protest placards of large cut-outs of red ribbons that globally symbolise HIV/AIDS and its patients. Some of the protest placards carried slogans urging PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to immediately wake up to the alarming situation of HIV/AIDS in the province as it had emerged as an epidemic in Ratodero, a town situated next to Larkana, which was the native city of Bilawal.

The House witnessed tense situation as Speaker Agha Siraj Khan Durrani did not repeatedly grant permission to Haleem Adil Sheikh, the parliamentary party leader of the PTI, to raise the issue of HIV/AIDS epidemic in Sindh through a point of order while deferring regular agenda of the session.

As the speaker did not allow Sheikh to speak on the point of order, the opposition legislators resorted to protest. They rose from their seats and gathered in front of the speaker’s rostrum to register their protest. They chanted slogans against the apathy of the ruling PPP and its provincial government in Sindh towards the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The only time, the House witnessed a peaceful conduct was a brief period at the outset of the sitting related to the question hour on the mines and minerals department. As soon as the question hour was over, the opposition’s protest started.

The speaker repeatedly assured the PTI parliamentary leader that he would give him the opportunity to speak after completing the regular agenda of the session. Leader of the Opposition Naqvi, who belongs to the PTI, was of the view that the HIV/AIDS epidemic had become a serious issue and House should immediately defer its regular proceedings to discuss this health emergency.

Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho also assured the PTI lawmakers that she was ready to answer all the queries of the opposition legislators on the issue of AIDS/HIV once the regular agenda of the session had been dealt with.

Chawla said the PTI MPAs deliberately resorted to such antics in the House to cover up the poor performance of their party’s government in the Centre that had caused serious economic hardships to the people.

He said that the people of Pakistan had been suffering due to an unprecedented price hike of the essential commodities, massive devaluation of rupee, and an increase in the rates of utility services due to which the PTI lawmakers in the House had resorted to protest to divert the public’s attention away from the failure of their party’s federal government.

Later, the speaker lamented that he had never earlier witnessed such scenes in the House like those on that day when the opposition legislators attempted to approach his podium. He also lamented that the opposition legislators during their protest in the House violated the decorum of the PA by using their mobile phones to take pictures and record video footage of their ruckus.

Lawmakers of two opposition parties, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), did not participate in the PTI-led protest and remained in their seats. Meanwhile, the parliamentary affairs minister assured MMA legislator Syed Abdul Rasheed that a select committee would be formed to ensure implementation on the latter’s resolution earlier passed by the PA for adopting a master plan for the development of Lyari.

The MMA lawmaker had moved a privilege motion in the House against the non-implementation of his resolution that had been adopted months ago. On the assurance of the parliamentary affairs minister, Rasheed withdrew his privilege motion.

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