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ISLAMABAD: Senator Farhatullah Babar on Wednesday called for a re-examination of the rules regarding post-retirement benefits awarded to public officials and sought an in-camera examination of the issue at the Senate committee-level.

Speaking on a point of public importance, Mr Babar raised the issue of allotment of lands to public functionaries on their retirement as a reward for services rendered.

Without naming anyone, the Pakistan Peoples Party senator said the issue raised a number of questions, including whether such allotments were governed by legislation or rules and regulations; who framed those rules and when; the application of the rules in the past and whether the application of such rules in the future needed to be streamlined.

“There is also the question of who among the retired senior officials are entitled to this extraordinary privilege,” he said, in an apparent reference to reports about the allotment of 90 acres of agricultural land to former army chief retired Gen Raheel Sharif.

The issue had stirred a debate in the country, forcing the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) to clarify that all such allotments were made through a “constitutional provision”.

Mr Babar said the matter was both sensitive and important and called for its examination in an in-camera session of the relevant Senate committee.

Rabbani asks govt to explain its position on recent wave of terrorist attacks; minister ‘unaware’ of Airbus sale to German firm

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, however, reserved his ruling, saying that he would consider how best to proceed with post-retirement benefits to public officials in a holistic manner.

Interestingly, Mr Babar had not mentioned any individual in his remarks, but the chairman said that their action should not be seen as targeting an individual.

Terrorist attacks

The Senate chairman also sought an explanation from the government over the fresh wave of terrorism sweeping the country and its position on a new video message released by a militant group threatening to carry out attacks on the armed forces and key installations.

He directed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz parliamentary leader Mushahidullah Khan to ensure the presence of Minister of State for Interior Baleeghur Rehman on Thursday (today) to brief senators on the recent terrorist attacks and take the house into confidence over the video message released by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.

The directives came after former interior minister Rehman Malik informed the house about the suicide attack in Peshawar. He said that terrorists had struck all provincial capitals in recent days, adding that the militant group had released a video message threatening attacks across the country.

Senator Malik said the militants had named a ‘Ghazi Force’ in their message, but that group had now distanced itself from Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.

“Is this group’s name on the list of proscribed organisations? Is this a foreign-sponsored militant group? It is the responsibility of the government to provide these details,” he said.

He said that on the one hand, the government blamed India and Afghanistan for such incidents and, on the other, it claimed that these attacks were aimed at sabotaging the final of the Pakistan Super League cricket tournament, scheduled to be held in Lahore next month.

Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party criticised Mr Malik for declaring Afghanistan an enemy country.

However, Mr Malik took the floor again and claimed that he had information about the role of the Afghan intelligence agency, claiming it was “100pc” involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan. He said that he had no enmity with Afghanistan, but it was a fact that Kabul was protecting Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah, like Faqir Mohammad before him.

He demanded that Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) officials should be asked to brief the house on the “nexus between India and Afghanistan”.

Shahi Syed of the Awami National Party (ANP) suggested that the house should summon the inspectors general (IGs) of all four provinces to get their input and opinion about the recent terror attacks. The ANP senator claimed that the IGs and DIGs were “powerless” and could not take any action due to political pressure.

PIA aircraft

To the surprise of all present, Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab told the house that the government had no information about the reported sale of a PIA Airbus A-310 to a German firm, in violation of the rules.

Responding to a calling attention notice moved by the opposition members, the parliamentary affairs minister said the government had already constituted an inquiry committee on the matter, which was expected to complete its report in a week.

Raising the matter, PPP’s Saleem Mandviwala alleged that the aircraft had been given to a German firm without waiting for the bids, which the airline had already sought through a newspaper advertisement. He said that PIA pilots who had taken the aircraft to Germany were ready to disclose all the details.

The minister said that no one had offered any bid in response to the advertisement and it was sent to a German firm which wanted to place the 28-year-old aircraft in a museum.

“Has Hitler used the aircraft?” Mr Rabbani remarked sarcastically while referring the matter to a sub-committee of the Special PIA Committee.

Published in Dawn February 16th, 2017