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[March 25, 2014]
The Backbencher: Memon gives his colleagues a lesson on the newspaper business
(Express Tribune (Pakistan) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The MPAs were 'unfashionably early' for once. The parking lot adjacent to the imposing Sindh Assembly building was packed promptly at 11am, the MPAs' drivers navigating the four-wheelers in search of prime spots. Their employers, meanwhile, scurried into the assembly building, keen on being a part of what was promised to be a 'revealing' session. For the question and answer session, all eyes were on information minister Sharjeel Memon who was dressed as always in a grey suit and tie. He looked as if he had come prepped for a fight as the opposition fired questions at him one after the other.
"Why can't they use recycled paper?" an MPA voiced her concern for the environment when she asked Memon why newspapers did not use recycled paper.
Others questioned the circulation of newspapers in Sukkur, names of newspapers published in the province, how a newspaper was published, content management and government ads.
Home ministry, he was careful to explain, was not the final authority. The power lay with the federal government. The provincial ministry issued an NOC to a publisher after he gave them 6 months' worth of the newspaper's copy. The ministry is not concerned with content, just the publishing and ads. When the questions became repetitive, Memon said irritably, "It's not rocket science." PTI's Khurram Sher Zaman asked one of the last questions of the session. Why waste the taxpayer's money in giving ads to newspapers when they could be posted online at no cost, he asked Memon. Memon asked Zaman to try out his marketing strategy in the province where his party was in power, and then try it in Sindh.
An MPA from the opposition stood up and asked the speaker to address his issue. The MPA claimed that none of the questions he had sent four months ago were presented to the house. "Where are my answers?" he asked. To this, Dr Sikandar Mandhro replied: "It's not that we are discriminating against you. The questions will be answered in due course." The MPA turned to Mandhro and retorted, "I know there is no discrimination just laziness on the part of the bureaucracy." This seemed to have annoyed the education minister, Nisar Khuhro, who said that he could answer all the questions, but there was not enough time in one session as a question usually leads to two three supplementary ones.
Another MPA decided to raise an issue from the previous session about Quaid-e-Azam's place of birth. As the MPAs kept jumping from their seats to say what they felt was historically correct, a member of the opposition shouted out to Durrani, "They are arguing here." "No, you're wrong. They haven't even started arguing yet," was Durrani's response.
After all questions were answered, Durrani said that two hours would be given to continue the Thar debate from the previous session. He added that they also had two special guests joining them. The special guests were the American consul-general and other officials from the consulate, who fell asleep during the chief minister's speech.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2014.
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