ISLAMABAD: The Senate will discuss next week the ‘confession’ by former ambassador of Pakistan to United States Husain Haqqani on fa­­cilitating CIA agents to kill Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in 2011.

Two separate adjournment motions moved by retired Gen Abdul Qayyum of the PML-N and Mohsin Aziz of the PTI seeking to discuss the issue were clubbed together and admitted by the chair. Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani has fixed the motion for discussion on March 21.

Speaking on the motion Gen Qayyum said the former ambassador in his article published by Washington Post on March 10 had confessed that CIA agents’ discreet induction into Pakistan had been facilitated with the approval of the then ruling party’s leadership. He stressed that the issue be discussed in detail due to its urgent and serious nature.

Custodial death of transgender

The Senate chairman asked the government to explain in the house on Tuesday the reports of death of a Pakistani transgender allegedly in police custody in Saudi Arabia early this month. The issue had been raised in the house by Farhatullah Babar of the PPP who said the transgender belonged to Swat. He said that reports had surfaced some days back but he did not raise it and was waiting for more information.

He noted that it was a serious matter involving the basic right to life of a Pakistani national and the least the government should do was to formally take it up with Saudi authorities and find out the facts.

The chairman directed that the verbatim record of the speech of the senator be sent to the Foreign Office with the direction to clarify the issue in the Senate on Tuesday.

Afghan border closure

Mr Babar questioned the continued closure of the Pak-Afghan border for the past several weeks and said that apart from being illogical it was now hurting the economic interests of traders and businessmen of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He said that it did not stand to reason that the borders had been closed because the militants were infiltrating through the Torkham border. There are over 260 crossing points along the border and asked why would militants choose to enter through regular check-posts.

It only shows serious disconnect somewhere, he said and called for revisiting the Afghan policy.

RTI law

Mr Babar, who is also chairman of the Special Committee of the Senate on Right to Information, presented in the house a report along with the draft of RTI law.

He said the law would enable citizens to access information not only about federal government departments but also about parliament, the courts, and the NGOs that received any assistance from the government in any form.

For the first time a provision has been incorporated to end the practice of seeking blanket immunity from disclosing information in the name of national security, he said.

Under the law reasons will have to be recorded in writing as to how considerations of security outweighed public good and even then it will be challengeable before the Information Commission, he said.

Furthermore, the plea of national security will not apply if the information sought related to corruption or if the life of a citizen was in imminent and real danger. Information about defence planning, deployment of forces and defence installations and related defence and security matters, however, will be exempt from disclosure.

Public record now includes information about transactions, acquisition and disposal of property, grant of licences, allotments and contracts awarded by a public body to name a few, he said. It also includes noting on the files and minutes of the meetings but not before a final decision has been taken on any issue.

The bill overrides all other laws and thus the outdated Official Secrets Act of 1923 is made redundant for purpose of withholding information.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2017

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