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Minister manages to ride out ‘chamber’ remarks controversy

Minister manages to ride out ‘chamber’ remarks controversy

KARACHI: The controversy stirred by the objectionable remarks of a provincial minister against a woman lawmaker in the Sindh Assembly session ended on Monday after he extended apology and asked for her forgiveness by presenting her a chador, a Sindhi custom to show respect to women; the woman lawmaker said she honoured Sindh’s traditions and closed the chapter for good.

Sindh Minister for Works and Services Imdad Pitafi’s misogynistic remarks against PML-F lawmaker Nusrat Saher Abbasi during Friday’s session came as a shock to the entire house, including his own party representatives.

When the session resumed on Monday after a two-day break, Mr Pitafi, after seeking permission of Deputy Speaker Syeda Shehla Raza — who was chairing the session — for a clarification said he regretted Friday’s episode. He had hardly made his point when lawmakers from the opposition benches along with Ms Abbasi lodged their noisy protest in the house. The deputy speaker asked the members to maintain sanctity of the house, as she had already got the objectionable remarks dropped from the assembly proceedings.

However, the disturbances continued in the house and Ms Abbasi went towards the rostrum where she and other opposition members staged a sit-in. To persuade the opposition members, the minister along with other PPP lawmakers also converged there. Mr Pitafi received a red chador from PPP lawmaker Erum Khalid and tried to present it to Ms Abbasi as a mark of respect.

But by then the deputy speaker, failing to call order in the house, had adjourned the session for 10 minutes. When the house reassembled after 14 minutes, Mr Pitafi along with PPP lawmakers went to the opposition benches and covered Ms Abbasi’s head with the chador as per Sindh’s tradition of respect and extended apology to her. He then returned to his seat and said: “After all I am also a human being and to err is human; whatever had happened on Friday, I asked the entire house and Nusrat Sahar Abbasi, in particular, to forgive me”.

In her response, Ms Abbasi said whatever had happened last week not only hurt herself and her family but also the people of Sindh. She said if the deputy speaker, who was in the chair, and senior parliamentarians had intervened, the matter could have been solved then and there.

She said the remarks had caused her to take the bold decision that if she failed to get justice within two days she would self-immolate before the assembly. She said after his apology, it was not possible for her to ignore Sindh’s tradition for respect of women. “For the sake of this tradition of Sindh, I give up this issue for good,” she remarked.

Ms Abbasi expressed gratitude to PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, his sister Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari, the people of Sindh in general and the civil society in particular who raised their voice against Friday’s incident. She asked the PPP chairman to tell the party representatives to respect women lawmakers.

Bottle of petrol

Talking to the media before the session, she said she had brought a bottle of petrol so that if the PPP leadership failed to take action against the minister, she would immolate herself.

Formal business was taken up from the order of the day after the matter was resolved amicably in the house.

During the Question Hour, Sindh Planning and Development Minister Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani said the government was providing assistance to the people living below poverty line through union councils under a poverty reduction programme.

He said 189 schemes were executed while 344 schemes could not be taken in hand in the financial year 2008-09. The following year, around 400 schemes were completed and 990 others were under way while 325 schemes could not be initiated. He assured the assembly that efforts would be made to initiate work on all the pending schemes.

In response to the call attention notice of MQM lawmaker Rana Ansar, Senior Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nisar Khuhro said the people involved in committing heinous crimes against women and innocent children did not deserve any mercy. They should be tried in courts, he added.

Ms Ansar had drawn the attention of the house towards the rape and torture of a six-year-old girl in Ibrahim Haideri. She said such incidents were on the rise and urged the Sindh government to take concrete steps to check them. Mr Khuhro said seven to eight suspects were picked up by police investigators in the case. He said Minister Shamim Mumtaz and CM’s Adviser Rehana Leghari had visited her in the hospital, where doctors said her condition was improving. She might be able to identify the criminals after recovering from the trauma. The minister assured the house that those found involved in the case would be given exemplary punishment.

In response to the call attention notice of MQM lawmaker Saifuddin Khalid, Transport Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah informed the house that the government was fully aware of the concern of citizens about intercity bus terminals at places and efforts were being made to find its solution at the earliest.

Replying to MQM legislator Jamal Ahmad, the minister said 100 acres off the Northern bypass had been allocated for intercity bus terminus. He said the government in the meantime had asked the transporters to start plying a shuttle service to take the passengers from the city to the terminus and those coming from other cities to drop them in the city. He assured the house that after some time all intercity bus terminals would be shifted outside Karachi.

In response to a call attention notice of PTI lawmaker Khurram Sherzaman, Local Government Minister Jam Khan Shoro said chlorinated water was being supplied to the city.

The last item on the agenda was consideration of The Sindh Payment of Wages Bill of 2015. But on the motion of Mr Khuhro, the chair deferred it till Thursday for consideration.

The house was later adjourned to meet on Tuesday at 10am.

Published in Dawn January 24th, 2017

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