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Sindh Assembly wants in-camera briefing on federal govt plan amid census confusion

Sindh Assembly wants in-camera briefing on federal govt plan amid census confusion

KARACHI: Lawmakers from the opposition and treasury benches in the Sindh Assembly on Friday came down heavily on the federal authorities for adding to the confusion over the sixth house and population census, causing Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani to announce that the census commissioner will be asked to give an in-camera briefing to the house on the matter.

Last year, the Council of Common Interests had agreed to hold the sixth census in March 2016, but a recent meeting chaired by Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was informed by the chief census commissioner Asif Bajwa that the army reportedly showed their inability to spare 350,000 soldiers for the national duty due to the ongoing military operation in the tribal areas.

There was more confusion than ever before because the federal government had so far not clarified as to how the house enumeration and population census would be carried out, said Senior Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nisar Ahmad Khuhro while raising a point of order during the provincial assembly session.

Terming the federal government attitude ‘disappointing’ and ‘non-serious’, the minister told the house that the federal minister’s changing statements such as heaven would not fall if the census was delayed, census would be carried out within three days, and that the army would spare only 100,000 had caused misgivings about the conduct of census.

The government had planned to start house census on March 16, but no one knew how the census would be completed ‘within three days’, Mr Khuhro said, adding that the confusion had raised doubts in the minds of the people. Rallies were being taken out in Sindh to create awareness among the people on the need to have correct census, he explained.

“We want that the census be carried out, because it will increase our representation in national institutions,” the minister said, suggesting to the chair that the chief census commissioner be called in so that the house could be given an in-camera briefing as to how the federal authorities had planned to conduct the census.

Leader of the Opposition Khwaja Izhar-ul-Hassan recalled that the chief minister had called an ‘all-parties’ conference on the census and said the issue should be taken up with the federal government in the light of recommendations of the conference.

He said the PPP-led government in the Centre had conducted house census in 2011 but then scrapped it. “We do have our reservations on census. However, it was surprising to hear the federal minister saying that if census was not conducted, heaven would not fall.”

Expressing his apprehension, Mr Hassan said: “If census is not held soon, it appears as if it will never be conducted.”

Earlier at the outset when the house was called to order at 11.15am, the speaker expressed displeasure over an inordinate delay in starting the proceedings for want of quorum. He asked the leaders of parliamentary parties to ensure presence of lawmakers in the house. “If they are not interested and if they consider their other engagements more important than the session, the session should be wrapped up,” he said.The adjournment motion of Mr Hassan was declared non-maintainable and out of order by the chair. By the motion, he wanted to discuss the report that stated 80 per cent tube wells set up under the Salinity Control and Reclamation Programe (SCARP) in Khairpur were out of order that resulted in destruction of around 100,000 acres of agricultural land.

Both PPP and MQM parliamentary party leaders made attempts to raise the issue of Bol Media, but the resolution was not allowed to be tabled in the house as the matter was pending in a court of law. Mr Khuhro on a point of order seeking to table a resolution said the Federal Investigation Agency raided the Axact firm that had three units including Bol Media House. The media house was closed before its launch, rendering over 22,000 people jobless, he said, adding that the owners were in prison and no challan was submitted in the court against them.

Endorsing the stand of the senior minister, Mr Hasan said the federal government should ensure transparency in the Axact matter, as 30,000 people could not be left to die just for the trial of one person.

The speaker expressed his sympathy with the affected families but said no resolution could be taken up as, the matter was sub judice.

The other business that was taken up was laying of appropriation accounts of the Sindh government for the year 2012-13 and audit reports on the accounts of local government secretary, Karachi Municipal Corporation and Karachi Water and Sewerage Board and audit report of town municipal administrations for the audit year 2013-14. Both the documents were referred to the Public Accounts Committee of the Sindh Assembly to submit its report within a year to the assembly.

Besides, the Sindh Payment of Wages Bill, 2015 was referred to the standing committee concerned with the direction to report back within two weeks.

The house was adjourned at 2.10pm for Thursday.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2016

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