ISLAMABAD: The Senate witnessed a heated debate on Monday on the issue of ongoing campaign against corruption, with PPP members accusing the PML-N government of victimising their party leaders on political grounds.
The members on treasury benches defended actions taken by the Rangers and investigating agencies in Sindh and asked the PPP senators to wait for the outcome of court proceedings.
Interestingly, Chairman Raza Rabbani, who mostly runs the house strictly under the rules, allowed members to hold a fully-fledged debate on the issue after requesting two senators to postpone their agenda items for the next private members’ day. He allowed the senators to deliver speeches while speaking on “matters of public importance” and even asked the minister to wind up the debate.
The Senate, on the opening day of a new session, also unanimously passed a resolution moved by PPP’s Farhatullah Babar calling upon the government to enact legislation so as to provide the right to revision of decisions taken in suo motu cases by the Supreme Court.
Leader of Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan, speaking on a point of order, drew the attention of the house towards the recent arrest of former federal minister Dr Asim Hussain by the Rangers and blasted the government for implicating him on terrorism charges.
He alleged that Dr Asim was being tried under the Anti-Terrorism Act only to allow the Rangers to obtain his 90-day remand. Without naming the MQM, Mr Ahsan said Dr Asim had been accused of providing treatment in his hospital to some of the wanted people belonging to a political party, which had remained “a partner of former military rulers Gen Pervez Musharraf and Gen Ziaul Haq”.
He said that he had not taken the floor to defend corruption, but the way the campaign against corruption was going on in Karachi was giving an impression that “a particular party is being targeted in a particular province”.
Mr Ahsan wondered why no action was being taken against those involved in scams like Nandipur power project, Metro bus project and solar energy power project. He asked the rulers to initiate accountability against the ministers allegedly involved in corruption cases.
The PPP’s Farhatullah Babar warned that mixing corruption issues with terrorism in an arbitrary and partisan manner would result in weakening the fight against both terrorism and corruption.
He said the Rangers had claimed to have unearthed corruption worth Rs230 billion and traced this money to terrorism, but it had not been made public how this figure was calculated nor any proof offered linking this money with terrorism.
The PPP’s parliamentary leader, Saeed Ghani, said his party was not against the operation against corruption, but it was unbearable that federal agencies crossed their constitutional limits and interfered in the affairs of Sindh government. He said the FIA had raided the offices and departments of the Sindh government, but it did not raid any federal department office in the province.
He said seven people, including two retired military officials and a judge, were allegedly found involved in an unlawful land allotment case, but the inquiry was only being conducted against the chief secretary of Sindh.
Abdul Qayyum of the PML-N defended the Rangers’ actions and said the country was more important than political parties.
Another ruling party member, Nehal Hashmi, said the house should not give an impression that it was there to protect “criminals, thieves and mafias”. He asked the PPP to allow institutions to do their work in accordance with the Constitution and the law.
Nauman Wazir of the PTI alleged that some members of both the PPP and PML-N had indulged in corruption. He said that besides “black jet terrorists”, the “black sheep” in political parties should be identified and caught.
Winding up the debate, the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Aftab Shaikh, said that all state institutions were working within their constitutional domain and the government would ensure that no innocent person was victimised.
The chairman referred the matter of changing the status of Fata to a committee of the house.
He also referred the Pakistan Environmental Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015, and the Working Women (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2015, to the standing committees concerned.
Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2015