ISLAMABAD: The Senate witnessed uproar on Thursday and opposition’s protest over the proposed privatisation of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) and absence of the minister concerned to give a policy statement on the matter.

Parliamentary leader of Pakistan Peoples Party Raza Rabbani lodged a strong protest and led a walkout by all opposition members when he came to know that federal Minister for Industries and Production Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi was not present in the house to respond to his calling-attention notice regarding the “proposal given to the prime minister by the ministry to privatise the PSM”.

An angry Rabbani declared that his party would not let the government privatise the PSM and threatened to block the National Highway if any such effort was made. Mr Rabbani said it seemed that the PSM was being run in loss deliberately since rulers wanted to sell the national asset to their “cronies and favourites”.

He also protested over the non-release of Rs11 billion as announced by the caretaker government as a bailout package for the PSM. All opposition senators walked out despite a statement by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Aftab Shaikh that so far no prog-ress had been made towards the privatisation of the PSM and that there was no such move on the part of the government.

Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq assured the house that the minister would come to the house on Tuesday to issue a policy statement.

Hafiz Hamdullah of JUI-F also staged a walkout in protest against the alleged rigging in by-elections held in the country on Thursday.

In a significant development, the opposition despite having majority in the Senate faced a defeat on the vote on the admissibility of an adjournment motion on the issue of hike in prices of petroleum products.

The motion had been moved by Zahid Khan of ANP, but the government opposed it.

Later, speaking on a point of order, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said the Supreme Court’s order to the government to draft legislation in respect of Federal Service Tribunal (FST) and get it passed by parliament was “tantamount to interference in the working of parliament”.

Mr Babar said the SC had “earlier taken over functions of the Election Commission of Pakistan by ordering a new schedule for the presidential election and now it was asking parliament to pass a certain law”.

The PPP leader said the time had come for parliament to rise and say no to any institution that sought to cut its role and trespassed in its domain against the letter and spirit of the constitution.

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