ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly, on the second private members’ day of the 15th session, deliberated on the threat to coastal areas of the country from Cyclone Nilofar, while the MQM’s demand for new provinces, Chief Election Commissioner’s pending appointment and the poor state of agriculture sector also came under discussion.

The house saw a brief brawl between the two erstwhile partners – MQM and PPP – over the issue of carving out new administrative units.

Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi disposed of only six items out of 17 in the 'order of the day', as most of the time was consumed by points of order raised from both treasury and opposition benches.

Responding to the serious concerns raised by PPP senior lawmaker Fehmida Mirza about threat of Cyclone Nilofar, Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Riaz Pirzada informed the house that the NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) and the PDMAs of Sindh and Balochistan were in close coordination to deal with any possible eventuality. "We are making all-out efforts to reduce the threat in high risk areas," said the minister, adding that directions have been issued in this regard.

Former NA speaker Fehmida Mirza, who seemed to be dissatisfied with the response, questioned about the measures taken by the government so far. Pirzada said that the Meteorological Department was properly monitoring the situation to inform about the intensity of the cyclone. He said the Sindh government has been asked to shift people from low-lying areas, particularly in Badin and Thatta, to safer places.

Responding to the concerns raised by Jamaat-i-Islami lawmaker Sahibzada Tariq Ullah about delay in the appointment of CEC, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Aftab Sheikh assured contacting both PM Nawaz Sharif and Opposition Leader in NA Khursheed Shah to resolve the issue.

"I will talk to the opposition leader and the prime minister to finalise the name of the chief election commissioner,” he maintained.

Over the new provinces issue, MQM lawmaker Asif Hasnain criticised the Sindh government and expressed his party's commitment to make a new province comprising urban areas of Sindh. "Come what may, (new) province will be formed in Sindh," said Hasnain, inviting much hullaballoo as PPP lawmakers stood on their seats in protest.

He came down hard on the Sindh government, saying bad governance was at its peak in the province. "Above 90 licence of liquor were awarded," he said and pointed out negligence of the government which, he claimed, caused the delay in local bodies’ elections. He also referred to the PPP government's alleged negligence on the Thar famine.

PPP senior lawmaker Nawab Yusuf Talpur, apparently responding to MQM lawmakers, said that the MQM is annoyed with the PPP, specifically Khursheed Shah, but why it was trying to divide the Sindh province. Another PPP legislator Shagufta Jumani also commented that PAT chief Allama Tahirul Qadri has left for Canada and now the MQM was creating issues out of non-issues.

The lawmakers, mostly from the treasury benches, also raised the issue of negligence of government towards the agriculture sector. "May I dare ask the minister about the agriculture issue," a treasury lawmaker said, drawing attention to cotton, wheat and sugarcane prices. "If we are sincere with the party and the government then we need to see the matter of fixing prices," he added.

Tehmina Daultana from the ruling PML-N asked the government to focus on the agriculture sector. "We need to get better results, as we don't want to barren our land," she added.

Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi, after listening to concerns from lawmakers, referred the matter to the Food and Research Committee to present a report on it. "If the report will be unsatisfactory, then a house committee would be formed to handle the matter," he added.

A PML-N lawmaker introduced "The Torture, Custodial Death and Custodial Rape (Prevention and Punishment Bill, 2014)", which was referred to the relevant committee. The bill provides for prevention of all acts of torture, custodial death and custodial rape perpetrated by public servants or any person acting in an official capacity for the protection of citizens of Pakistan and of all other persons from such acts.

Pakistan signed the convention against torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment in 2008 and thereafter ratified it in 2010. It is incumbent upon the federal government to implement international conventions and treaties by virtue of items no.3 &32 of the federal legislative list under the constitution, read the statement detailing objectives of the bill.

About amending the bill entitled 'Civil Servant Act, 1973’ passed by the Senate, the deputy speaker, after listening to arguments from the opposition benches, sent it to the standing committee concerned. "A civil servant who is in the service of Pakistan must have undivided loyalty to the state. If he takes leave and starts working in an international organisation, it is tantamount to conflict of interest," says the statement detailing objective of the bill.

Earlier, PML-N lawmaker and Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Sardar Awais Ahmed Leghari presented the first periodical report of the Standing Committee on the Performance of Foreign Affairs. Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecommunication Anusha Rehman congratulated the house on Pakistan winning a seat in the Administrative Council of the International Telecommunication Union.