PA session adjourned amid uproar over sugar cane price

OPPOSITION lawmakers on Friday leave their seats to draw the attention of Deputy Speaker Syeda Shehla Raza to the sugar cane price issue.—Online

KARACHI: Deputy Speaker of Sindh Assembly Syeda Shehla Raza on Friday had to close the question hour related to food and kutchi abadis departments and abruptly adjourn the session till Monday after she could not pacify the protesting opposition members and bring the house in order.

The session, which was chaired by deputy speaker Ms Raza, began around 50 minutes behind the scheduled time of 10am as mentioned in the order of the day.

The session had to be adjourned as the opposition members, including former chief minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz legislator Arbab Ghulam Rahim, had asked supplementary questions, which were not related to the main question, cornering provincial minister Jam Mahtab Dahar to the touchy subject of sugar cane price and the sugar mills in southern parts of Sindh which were refusing to pay the official price.

The main question asked by PML-Functional legislator Nusrat Sehar Abbasi was related to wheat but PML-N legislator Sorath Thebo asked a supplementary question regarding the sugar cane price not being paid by many sugar mills. Although the supplementary question was not related to the main question that was about wheat, Mr Dahar replied to him that in the northern parts of province the millers had agreed but there was some resistance in the southern parts. He added that the government was making efforts to resolve the issue amicably.

Mr Rahim and some other PML-F legislators asked further supplementary questions regarding action being taken against the sugar mills resisting to pay the official price.

It then dawned on the treasury benches where the issue was being dragged, as a number of sugar mills in the southern Sindh are reportedly managed/ operated / controlled by a top ruling party leader.

Former speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro and some other senior Pakistan Peoples Party legislators stood up and informed Ms Raza that the questions about sugar cane were irrelevant, as the main question pertained to wheat.

Therefore, they said, such questions should not be allowed or responded to, but by then many opposition legislators, including leader of the opposition Shaharyar Mahar, had come in front of the speaker and demanded that their questions be responded to.

Eventually, Ms Raza had to announce the end of the question hour. Even then the opposition members did not return to their respective seats and continued protesting in loud noise. Despite repeated requests by the deputy speaker for order in the house, when she could not pacify the opposition lawmakers she adjourned the session to Monday.

Earlier, responding to a question by Muttahida Quami Movement legislator Nishat Qadri regarding the encroachment on the katchi abadis department land, katchi abadis minister Javed Nagori said that in Kotri district 3.16 acres of low-cost housing scheme Sasti Basti comprising 145 small residential, 52 commercial and five amenity plots and two acres of the Sasti Basti in the Mauripur area of Karachi had been encroached upon. The minister said efforts were being made to get the land vacated.

Ms Abbasi asked about the storage of 500,000 bags of wheat in the open that could damage the commodity. Responding on behalf of chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah who holds the portfolio of food but was not present in the assembly, Minister Dahar agreed that 500,000 wheat bags were stored in open areas but they were properly covered with polythene sheets and tarpaulins and were fumigated also besides soon after the availability of the storage space in Karachi the wheat was shifted to the metropolis.

He claimed that not a single wheat bag was affected.

In reply to her question about wheat prices and the volume of commodity procured, the minister said that price per 40 kilos of wheat in 2011 was Rs950. He added that 1.412 million metric tonnes (MMT) of wheat was procured. Similarly, its price jumped to Rs1,050 in 2012 and 1.29 MMT wheat was procured, the following year the price increased to Rs1,200 and 1.039 MMT wheat was procured.

At this point, the topic of questions changed from wheat price issue to sugar cane price that eventually led to the abrupt adjournment of the session without completion of the legislature’s business as mentioned in the order of the day.

MQM legislators Sardar Ahmed, Izhar-ul-Hassan, Waqar Shah, Rana Ansar, Zubair Khan, Dilawar Qureshi, and PPP’s Ghazala Siyal and others also spoke.

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