The Sindh government has proposed to withdraw the powers of the municipal agencies to manage cemeteries and crematoriums by establishing a centralised province-wide agency to control the affairs of the burial places.
The draft of the central provincial agency to look after the affairs of the graveyards was unveiled during the current session of the provincial assembly.
The Sindh Manzil-e-Sukoon Authority Bill 2022 was introduced in the House by the parliamentary affairs minister, Mukesh Kumar Chawla. The bill was referred to the relevant standing committee of the House for review before presenting it in the House for adoption.
At the time of the introduction of the bill, opposition MPA of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Jawed Hanif, requested the acting speaker to defer the introduction of the bill in the House considering that it was related to a subject that was one of the functions of the local governments in the province.
He was of the view that when a select committee consisting of legislators of both the treasury and opposition benches had been considering the existing provincial local government law to empower the municipal agencies of the province, such a bill should not be separately introduced in the House.
The opposition MPA said that the select committee having the representation of all the parliamentary parties should also review the bill related to the cemeteries in the province.
The draft of the bill carries the provisions to give options to the local government agencies in the province to transfer the affairs related to the management of the graveyards to the proposed new authority.
This would likely be done in the same manner in which the affairs related to the disposal of municipal waste in Karachi were, starting some years ago, gradually transferred from different district municipal corporations to the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board.
The plan of the provincial government is likely to further aggravate the issue of the weakening of the powers of the municipal agencies, which is a problem often raised by the opposition political parties in the province.
A controversy would likely emerge when the second phase of the local government elections would be conducted in the areas of Karachi, Hyderabad and Thatta later in the month.
The provincial government, on the other hand, has been of the view that graveyards are not being properly managed by the municipal agencies, as good management practices are required for the better administration of the burial places.
The government also believes that there is a need to establish new burial places with better administration because the existing cemeteries have fast been running out of space due to the massive increase in population in the major urban centres.
The bill describes the powers of the proposed Manzil-e-Sakoon Authority, which include the construction, development, maintenance and monitoring of cemeteries. It would also be responsible for preventing and ending encroachments in graveyards.
The proposed authority would also establish a fund to keep all the grants to be received from the federal, provincial and local governments for managing the burial places in the province.
The fund would also keep the income generated through various fees to be charged by the authority. It would also keep the donations received by the authority.
The bill also carries the provision of sentencing a person to a maximum of six months in prison with a maximum fine of Rs50,000 if they perform the burial or cremation of a deceased person without obtaining the written permission of the proposed authority in the prescribed manner. The bill also prescribes a maximum prison term of seven years and a maximum penalty of Rs1 million if a person without any lawful authority disinters, dissects or causes harm to the dead body of any person buried in a cemetery.
The bill also proposes a maximum jail term of six months with a maximum fine of Rs50,000 for a person who wilfully causes damage, makes any encroachment on or builds any unauthorised construction in any part of the graveyard.