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Senate briefing on Taliban, LoC violations planned

Updated August 27, 2013
— File photo
— File photo

ISLAMABAD: The government accepted on Monday an opposition’s proposal to hold a briefing in Senate by National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz on foreign policy with particular reference to talks with Taliban and violations of the Line of Control by India.

The proposal was made by PPP’s parliamentary leader Raza Rabbani and Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq immediately accepted it. He said he would try to arrange the briefing this week and inform the house about the date.

Both the government and the opposition also agreed to hold a full-fledged debate on the procedure for appointment of judges of superior courts on a motion moved by PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar.

The issue of the acquiring private land in the name of defence and national security and refusal by the defence ministry to pay compensation to owners came under sharp criticism in Senate on a motion moved by Mr Babar.

Senators introduced six private member bills, three of them on constitutional amendment. The bills were referred to standing committees concerned. Senate also passed two resolutions asking the government to take steps to check “sale of spurious and substandard drugs” and “implement international obligations regarding global warming and control environmental pollution in the country”.

Two constitutional amendment bills were tabled by independent Senator Mohsin Leghari seeking powers for parliament to “create new provinces” and making it mandatory to hold local government elections within 45 days after the expiry of the term.

Through their bill, PPP’s Raza Rabbani and Saeed Ghani sought allocation of reserved seats for workers in the national and provincial assemblies. Speaking on a point of order, Senator Rabbani regretted that the new government had not taken the parliament into confidence so far on its foreign policy. He said the adviser must brief them on the Afghan situation and continued violations of the Line of Control by India.

Mr Rabbani also said the government must take parliament into confidence on its plan to reconstitute the National Security Council, which seemed to be a violation of the Charter of Democracy signed by the PPP and the PML-N in May 2006. He said these were important issues and the national security adviser should be asked to brief Senate on it within this week.

LAND ACQUISITION: Debating the motion on the issue of non-payment of compensation by military authorities to land owners in Nowshera, Mr Babar said over 18,000 acres of private land had been acquired by the military ostensibly to be used as firing range.

He said several years after the acquisition, a compensation at the rate of Rs88 per marla was announced which was far below the market rate even at the time the land had been acquired. The decision was challenged in the court and the Peshawar High Court directed that payment of compensation at the rate of Rs1,500 per marla with six per cent simple interest. But, he regretted that the defence ministry had refused to make payment.

Mr Babar that said in July last year the Defence Committee of Senate had taken up the matter, but the ministry officials used delaying tactics and made different excuses.

The senator said that while the affected people were running from pillar to post to get their rights, orchards had been grown on the land acquired in the name of national defence.

Demanding payment of compensation to affected people of the AFV Ranges, Nowshera, in accordance with court verdicts, Mr Babar said this was only one instance to demonstrate the need for looking into the management of military land.

Admitting the motion for further discussion, the Senate chairman raised some questions and asked the government to furnish replies to resolve the decades-old issue.

“If the government is sincere in addressing the issue and paying the rightful dues of the owners, it should allocate funds for payment instead of filing a review petition unnecessarily,” the chairman directed.

PML-Q’s Kamil Ali Agha asked under which law the land had been acquired. He said if it had been acquired illegally then it could be set aside.

When Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs Barjees Tahir said the government had allocated over Rs5 billion for the purpose and was taking up the matter with the GHQ, the Senate chairman asked why the government was allowing other institutions to use its forum. He deferred the matter asking the minister to come up with a complete report.