Karachi             -      The Sindh Assembly on Monday made an amendment in rules of procedure permitting members to attend the session online from home or quarantine centres.

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mukesh Kumar Chawla had tabled move for amendment.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah expressed gratitude to the entire house for approving the amendment and said that it would pave the way for members infected from COVID-19 to participate in the proceedings. “We wanted to give them this opportunity so that they don’t have to come to assmebly and take risks of their lives,” he added.

The chief minister said that the provincial health department so far conducted COVID-19 tests of 90 MPAs of which 83 came negative and six tested positive while report of a member was yet to come. He urged that lawmakers attending the session should be tested periodically, adding that a team would be deployed in the assembly from June 20 for screening of MPAs.

Later, Murad also gave a demo of online participation while making a speech from his chamber. He said it was the first time that such system was introduced in Pakistan as the Sindh Assembly was the first to do so. The chief minister hinted at holding the entire session online, if it became difficult to hold sittings in the assembly hall in future. It may be noted here around two dozen members of Sindh Assembly were infected with the novel coronavirus whereas Pakistan People’s Party’s Ghulam Murtaza Baloch succumbed to the deadly virus.

The provincial assembly is set to hold its first online Budget 2020-21 session on Wednesday. The virus infected lawmakers would be able to attend the Budget session for the fiscal year 2020-21 online.

Speaker Sindh Assembly Agha Siraj Durani can call online sessions at any time he wants.

Earlier in the day, Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab said the province will amend its rules on holding online assembly sessions “in case of emergency”. “Sindh Assembly would be amending its rules today to add a provision allowing for the speaker to hold virtual sessions of the Assembly in case of emergency or when it is impracticable.” Wahab said in a post on Twitter. He further said that Sindh will become the first assembly in Pakistan to make use of technology for its sessions. Last month, Minister for Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry had proposed holding a virtual meeting of the Parliament amid the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Separately, a unanimous resolution was also adopted, asking the federal government to approach Saudi Arabia for reconstruction of mausoleum of Hazrat Fatima (RA). The resolution was moved by Opposition Leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi. In yet another resolution tabled by minister for information, Prof Waris Mir was paid rich tribute.

Education most affected

Separately, Education Minister Saeed Ghani said although every sector of the life was affected during the pandemic, but Education had been hit hard as future of children was hanging in the balance. Responding to a point of order raised by Nand Kumar Goklani of GDA, Ghani claimed that the education department made “comprehensive” policy for provision of education to students during the pandemic.

“We are in talks with cellular companies and expanding internet facilities to less privileged areas of the province. The education department is also working on offline mobile application and have formed Youtube channel which is giving fruitful results,” he added.

Legislation During the proceedings, the house unanimously passed eight government bills namely The Stamp (Sindh Amendment) Bill, 2020; The Sindh Advisers (Appointments, Powers, Functions, Salaries, Allowances and Privileges (Amendment) Bill, 2019; The Sindh Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020; The Sindh Covid-19 Emergency Relief Bill, 2020; The Sindh Shops and Commercial Establishment (Amendment) Bill, 2020; The Sir Cowasjee Jahangir Institute Of Psychiatry And Behavioral Sciences, Hyderabad Bill, 2019; The Aror University Of Art, Architecture, Design And Heritage, Sukkur, Bill, 2019; and The Shaheed Allah Buksh Soomro University of Art, Design And Heritages Jamshoro Bill, 2020.