Friday August 12, 2022

Treasury, opposition MPAs trade allegations during budget debate

June 21, 2022

The Sindh Assembly’s budget session on Monday witnessed rumpus, exchange of accusations and use of non-parliamentary language from both the treasury and opposition benches.

Opposition MPAs also condemned the arrest of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MPA Shabbir Qureshi by the Karachi police, saying that he was arrested on Sunday over bogus charges of sexual harassment.

The assembly session started with Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari in chair. After praying for the departed souls, PTI MPAs Rabistan Khan and Saeed Afridi tried to raise the issue of Qureshi’s arrest but the deputy speaker did not allow them to talk and switched off their microphones.

It was the second day of the parliamentary debate on the budget for the coming fiscal year 2022-23. The atmosphere in the House remained tense most of the time as MPAs from both the treasury and opposition benches exchanged accusations and used inappropriate language against each other.

Several issues, including scarcity of water, forced marriages and corruption during the present and previous governments, were also discussed in the legislature.

Initiating the debate on Monday, Rana Hameer Singh of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said the Sindh government was constructing 84 new dams to overcome the scarcity of water in the province. He added that as soon as these small dams became functional, the issue of water shortage would be resolved to a large extent in many areas.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) MPA Mangla Sharma raised the issue of forced marriages in Sindh, saying that earlier concerned people used to raise the issue of forced marriages of Hindu girls, which was by and large ignored but now the issue was being faced by those in the majority. Citing the recent cases of Dua Zahra and Nimra Kazmi, two girls who went missing from Karachi in April and later found to have married someone in Punjab, Mangla said both the girls were not adults as per the National Database and Registration Authority’s (Nadra) record but in their medical certificates, they were declared adults.

She said if Nadra record had no value and decisions had to be taken on the basis of medical boards, institutions like Nadra should be shut down. PPP MPA Surendar Valasai criticised the Bhartiya Janata Party’s government in India for making the lives of Indian Muslims miserable. He added that due to extraordinary diplomatic efforts by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Pakistan would soon be removed from the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Praising the budget presented by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah in the House on June 14, the PPP lawmaker said it was a balanced budget and the provincial government had tried to provide relief to all segments of society.

Situation turned tense in the House when PTI MPA Dua Bhutto, who is also the wife of leader of the opposition Haleem Adil Sheikh, claimed that her dupatta (head scraf) was earlier removed by PPP MPAs and remarked that this action by the PPP lawmakers was tantamount to removing the dupatta from the head of Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari, the sister of Bilawal.

She also termed the PPP a Zardari mafia’s party and accused the PPP government of committing large-scale corruption, which infuriated MPAs on treasury benches who began heckling her. To this, several PTI MPAs began shouting in favour of Dua.

Sindh Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla criticised PTI MPAs over what he said their threats to PPP lawmakers. A PPP MPA, Kulsoom Chandio, spoke about Farah Gogi, friend of former first lady Bushra Bibi, saying that those who had been defending Farah were lecturing about corruption in the provincial assembly.

Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) MPA Arif Mustafa Jatoi chided the government for its economic policies but provincial minister Imtiaz Shaikh defended the provincial budget. PPP’s Tariq Talpur, GDA’s Sheheryar Mahar and MQM-P’s Ali Khursheed also spoke. Later, the deputy speaker adjourned the session till Wednesday afternoon.