ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz will make a statement in the Senate today (Wednesday) about mandate of the Saudi Arabia-led military alliance.

Through a call-attention notice placed on the agenda on Tuesday, Senator Farhatullah Babar of the Pakistan Peoples Party had drawn attention of the adviser towards media reports that quoted Saudi authorities as saying the alliance would not restrict its activities to terrorist organisations like the militant Islamic State (IS) group but would take action also against the rebel groups posing threats to any of the member countries, on a request from the country concerned.

Raising the issue in the house, Mr Babar deplored that no minister concerned was present in the house to respond to his call-attention notice.

PPP leader says budget seeks to ambush ‘Supreme Court judgement’

“You do not have a right to get this information,” Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani sarcastically said.

He said the notice had been submitted to the Senate Secretariat on April 25 and sent to the defence ministry for a response on May 2. “Yesterday the Senate was told by the defence ministry that it has nothing to do with the matter and the same has been referred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

He said the foreign ministry also said the matter did not fall in its domain and had been sent back to the defence ministry.

“It is the right of the parliament to get this sensitive information. I will not accept any attempts to make the parliament a ping-pong ball,” he remarked. “What is the parliament for if the information… cannot be shared with it?”

The chairman then directed issuance of notices to secretaries of the foreign affairs and defence ministries for not providing the information to the parliament. He also summoned Adviser Aziz and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif to the house on Wednesday.

Towards the end of the day’s proceedings, Chairman Rabbani informed the house that he had received a message in which Mr Aziz had said that he was ready to visit the house “right now” to make a statement.

He, however, noted that the mover of the notice was not present in the house and decided that the matter would be taken up on Wednesday.

Earlier, taking part in a discussion on the budgetary proposals for next fiscal year, Mr Babar said the budget seeks to ambush the Supreme Court, shuts the door on Fata reforms, launches a bristling attack on human rights and fails to inject even “token transparency and accountability into military spending structures”.

He said that for the first time all financial powers were vested in the executive in what he called “ambush of the Supreme Court’”. “This is the foremost political statement of the budget,” he said.

The court’s verdict of August 2016, he said, stated: “The prime minster cannot take decisions by himself, or by supplanting or ignoring the cabinet, because the power to take decisions is vested with the federal government, that is, the cabinet and unilateral decisions taken by the PM would be usurpation of power.”

He said that transparency and accountability were alien to the government. “It has persistently refused to provide information about the post-retirement perks and privileges of retired generals.”

In his speech, retired General Abdul Qayyum said that promotion of knowledge economy was the only way forward to achieve the goal of a prosperous Pakistan. He said the country is apparently spending two per cent of its GDP on education but if about Rs800 billion being spent by the private sector is included the total spending on education comes to about four per cent of GDP.

Over 22 million children were out of school, he said, and added that the provinces were supposed to solve the problem.

In this regard performance of the government of Punjab was better than that of Sindh.

Senator Sherry Rehman of the PPP said the government had deprived the people of hopes for a better life by telling them it would continue to tax them to pay for its overspending.

“It is appalling to observe that 82 to 85 per cent of the taxes gained are indirect. The brunt of these failed policies is borne by the poor citizens of the country. They are the ones reeling from power outages. They do not have access to generators, they do not have the cash to buy an extra fan or pay their utility bills,” she said.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2017