Sindh Information and Labour Minister Saeed Ghani has said the provincial government is ready to hold negotiations with the Opposition on the contentious parts of the newly passed Sindh Local Government (Amendment) Bill-2021 including the provision to use the secret ballot for electing the mayor of Karachi.
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting of the Sindh cabinet on Thursday, the Sindh Information Minister said that talks could be held with the Opposition if it wanted that the secret ballot shouldn’t be used for electing mayors and chairmen of the municipal agencies in the province.
He said that similarly negotiations could be held with the Opposition political parties on their demand that the municipal agencies in Sindh continued to have control of local health and educational facilities.
He said the Sindh government had assumed control of these health and educational institutions for the sole purpose of improving their affairs.
He reiterated the resolve of the Sindh government that they wanted to empower the elected local government representatives in the province.
He said the elected municipal representatives would serve on the boards of Sindh Solid Waste Management Board, Karachi Water & Sewerage Board, and Sindh Building Control Authority. For this purpose, the laws governing these civic agencies would be amended as merely amending the provincial local government act wouldn’t be sufficient for this cause.
He said that no one should object to the formation of a commission in Sindh to regularise irregular shanty settlements, residential buildings and projects including those on state land where people had been living for last several years.
He mentioned that earlier a similar commission had been constituted in Punjab to regularise over 6,000 housing societies in the province.
The Information Minister said the Leader of Opposition in the Sindh Assembly had made an absurd demand that a serving judge should be made head of the proposed commission for regularisation of the residential projects in Sindh.
He said that a retired judge was heading a similar commission in Punjab so the same should be the case in Sindh.
The Information Minister said the Sindh cabinet had constituted two committees to devolve the power of collecting the property tax to the local councils in the province as these committees would submit their reports within 15 days.
Speaking on the occasion, Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho said that the provincial cabinet had decided to lower the minimum pass percentage of medical and dental colleges’ admission test (MDCAT) from 65 per cent to 50 per cent to save the academic career of the students and also to avert shortage of doctors in the province.
The Health Minister said the provincial governments under the 18th Constitutional Amendment were empowered to adopt the admission policies for medical and dental colleges but the centre had been unduly meddling in this affair.
She recalled that 400 seats in the dental colleges had remained vacant last year while the medical colleges of the province had been compelled to offer admissions to the candidates belonging to other provinces.
She said that as per the WHO standard, there should be a doctor for every 350 hospital beds while in Sindh a doctor was present for 3500 patients. The Health Minister warned that the province could face a shortage of doctors in the next four years if an unjust admission policy remained valid in Sindh any further.
She said the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) on its own had set the minimum passing criterion of 65 per cent without consulting the provinces.
The Health Minister said that an incompetent agency had been given the task to conduct the MDCAT as against the provisions of the PMC Act.
To a question, she said the process of admission in medical colleges in Sindh would soon begin after the announcement of the Intermediate examinations’ result.