Sindh Universities Laws Bill, carrying fresh amendments

KARACHI:14 April: The Sindh Assembly on Friday once again witnessed uproar as the opposition tore copies of the universities bill and boycotted the day’s proceedings.

The Sindh Universities and Institutes Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018, carrying several fresh amendments after it was sent back by the governor to the provincial government for a review, was passed again by a majority of votes.

Lawmakers belonging to all opposition groups — Muttahida Qaumi Movement and its defectors now representing Pak Sarzameen Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz — walked out of the Sindh Assembly and did not return.

With the passage of the bill, through which acts of 24 universities have been amended, the Sindh governor will no longer enjoy the powers to control the public sector universities since all powers have been given to the CM.

Governor Muhammad Zubair’s very first observation in his seven-page comment on the bill clearly said: “The ultimate objective of a law is to set up a framework in order to ensure an equitable, transparent and effective mechanism for delivery of certain functions for the benefit of the people. The bill, in my considered opinion, seems to be lacking on all the accounts.”

After reconsideration and passage of the bill returned by the governor, under Clause 3 of Article 116 of the Constitution, it would be again presented to the governor and “the governor shall give his assent within 10 days, failing which such assent shall be deemed to have been given”.

‘Governor’s assent will be considered given after 10 days’

Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani sought the opinion from the house on the comment of the governor as was decided a day earlier before the clause-by-clause reading by Senior Minister Nisar Khuhro.

All the opposition parties rejected the bill as Leader of the Opposition Khawaja Izharul Hassan viewed it as against the very spirit of democracy.

Before him, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said he had told the house in his policy statement on Thursday that several changes had been made in the bill after it was returned by the governor, which included removal of government secretaries from top academic bodies as was earlier given after the CM got feedback from eminent academicians.

“All the secretaries have been removed. CM’s principal secretary has no role in the syndicates’ admission policy. The finance directors and auditors will be appointed by the government. We have strengthened the Sindh Assembly, the top forum of the province.”

He said the new law would make the provincial assembly the competent forum where chief minister was answerable along with the vice chancellors.

“This law ensures everybody should be accountable. It will strengthen the universities as well as the assembly,” said Mr Shah.

He said syndicates had been made stronger while the Sindh Assembly was the office where universities were accountable.

Khwaja Izhar said he along with MQM’s parliamentary leader Syed Sardar Ahmed had sent a letter to the Sindh governor after the passage of the same bill for the first time last month in which they had requested him to return the bill without assent.

“All those assurances and rosy statements by the government are gimmicks,” said Mr Hassan, adding it was not a matter of defending the governor, but “it is against the very spirit of democracy to bestow the chief minister with dictatorial powers”.

“I would have opposed such bill even if the chief minister was from my party, MQM.”

He said there were 11 elected members in the syndicate of a university during the military dictatorship of Gen Ziaul Haq and that number had been miserably decreased by the present democratic government to seven against 16 nominated members.

CM Shah said the Sindh chief minister would nominate just seven of those members from people of eminence while the number of elected members was higher than what Mr Hassan had claimed.

“Please give a patient reading to the bill, we have rescued universities which were made hostages in the Governor House,” said Mr Shah.

Sardar Ahmed said the universities should be made autonomous and vice chancellors be made more powerful.

Senior Minister Khuhro said the law would offer an opportunity of monitoring institutions imparting higher education.

“We have made CM accountable for the matter and scrapped the interference of bureaucracy.”

Mr Khuhro added that no governor in any province was apolitical.

PTI’s Samar Ali Khan and Seema Zia, and MQM’s Faisal Subzwari also opposed the bill.

The opposition launched a noisy protest with ‘no, no’ slogans as Mr Khuhro began reading the bill clause-by-clause.

Some of them tore up copies of the bill and hurled pieces of paper in the air while walking out of the house.

The treasury members comfortably sat on their benches in the hall of the old assembly building and got the bill passed with majority.

Later, The West Pakistan Highways (Sindh Amendment) Bill, 2018, and The Sindh Regularisation of Veterinary Doctors Appointed on Contract Basis Bill, 2018 were also passed into law in the house devoid of opposition.

Rape victim

Earlier, in response to the calling-attention notice by Nusrat Sahar Abbasi, in which she raised the issue of sexual violence against a boy allegedly by a local PPP leader in Mirpur Bathoro (Sujawal district), Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal said three of the four persons accused in the case were arrested on the day a video about the incident went viral and were on seven-day remand; the fourth accused had obtained bail from a court.

He said the accused had been charged with sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The minister said before arrest of those accused, the PPP leadership had removed the suspects from the local party post.

Responding to other calling-attention notices, Local Government Minister Jam Khan Shoro said induction of fresh employees was banned in municipal councils.

He said Karachi Metropolitan Corporation was given Rs7 billion for district ADP schemes which was in addition to the annual grant.

He said Thatta city received drinking water from Kalri-Baghar region’s Jam branch and feasibility of water supply from Keenjhar Lake would be examined.

He said a 72-inch sewerage line was already laid in Gulshan-i-Faisal.

Mr Khuhro claimed there was no shortage of medicines and other facilities in Civil Hospital Sanghar.

Adjournment motion

An adjournment motion by Khurram Sher Zaman regarding “major irregularities or violations of the Board of Revenue pointed out by the auditor general of Pakistan report for the audit year 2016-17” was outvoted by the house after Mr Khuhro called it ‘hearsay’ with no report offered by the mover.

CM Shah said the AG’s report was already with the Public Accounts Committee.Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2018.