KARACHI: Sindh government has unveiled plans to establish the first ever female hostel for MPAs. The hostel will be first female-only facility of its kind for lawmakers in the country.
The initial cost for the construction of the twin towers, which will house both male and female lawmakers, have been estimated at Rs1,700 million. Consultants envisage, however, the costs to be much higher, given the rising prices of raw materials. “Former president Asif Ali Zardari had announced the project in 2009,” the acting Sindh Assembly secretary GM Umar Farooq told The Express Tribune. According to him, phase one, or PC-1, of the project was formally approved by the planning and development department last year. Subsequently, consultants have been hired and contractors have been awarded tenders to see the project materialises as soon as possible.
Farooq revealed that the hostel for women is being built by demolishing the existing MPA hostel for male lawmakers adjacent to the Pakistan Secretariat in Saddar. “The twin integrated towers, with underground parking, will be completed by 2015-2016,” he said. The building will comprise 17 floors for males and eight floors for females.
The executive director of Usman and Co (Pvt) limited, Syed Abbas Hyder, who has been hired as a consultant for the project, appeared excited about the venture as he explained that the facility will include all modern amenities such as a gymnasium, mess, auditorium and underground parking. “We will conduct a soiling test before designing the structure of the building. Currently, there are 168 members in the provincial assembly but we will leave provision for an extra floor in view of the numerical size of elected representatives,” the consultant said.
There are around 30 women MPAs in the assembly, some of whom, especially those belonging to rural areas, desperately need accommodation in the city. “Since there is no separate hostel for women, I have been living in a rented house,” MPA Nusrat Seher Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League – Functional told The Express Tribune. “I have been asking the government to cover my accommodation expenses for the past five years but they always come up with different excuses each time.”
Another MPA, Sorath Thebo, belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz, related to The Express Tribune how the assembly officials had offered her a room in a male hostel, which was largely occupied by outsiders. “In the current MPA hostel, there are only 44 rooms, most of which are lying vacant or occupied by people other than lawmakers. The new hostel for women is a good omen and we would appreciate the Sindh government’s decision if it really happens,” she said.
“There was a time when the provincial assembly building did not even have a separate toilet for women. It was only built after the hue and cry raised by the media in 2006. For the last five years, we have been raising the issue regarding accommodation for women MPAs at the floor of the provincial assembly. We will really appreciate if the project takes shape,” said the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Heer Ismail Soho.
Meanwhile, Sindh Assembly speaker Agha Siraj Durrani said that the federal government had initially promised to share fifty per cent of the cost of construction, but had now refused. “Asif Ali Zardari was the first president in the history of Pakistan to have visited the assembly building in 2009. He had announced the federal government’s assistance for the construction of this building.” The current government has, however, refused to assist in the construction. “We will not let this weaken our resolve and we will ensure the completion of the project within two to three years,” he asserted.