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ISLAMABAD: Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani on Tuesday made it clear that parliament would not give way to a dictator.

He made these remarks after Senator Shahi Sayed of the Awami National Party (ANP) expressed concern over the snags hitting the passage of the delimitation law that may delay the next general elections.

“People jeer at us and say that it is parliament which paves the way for dictatorship and martial laws,” Mr Sayed said.

ANP senator blames PPP, PML-N for delay in passage of delimitation bill

He regretted that the bill already passed by the National Assembly had failed to sail through the Senate, adding that it was the government’s responsibility to bring lawmakers to the house in sufficient numbers to get it passed with a two-thirds majority.

The ANP leader criticised the Pakistan Peoples Party for obstructing the passage of the bill and wondered what went wrong after the party supported the law in the National Assembly. He said it appeared that the government was being blackmailed to close cases against some politicians in return for supporting the bill.

He also alleged that the delay was a result of collusion between the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the PPP because both did not want to see an increase in the number of NA seats of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

PPP’s parliamentary leader Senator Taj Haider rose to respond to Mr Sayed’s remarks but was not allowed to speak by the chair.

The Senate chairman said the issue came under discussion during the business advisory committee meeting on Monday and the leader of the house and the leader of the opposition were making efforts for the passage of the constitution amendment bill.

He said parliament had played an unprecedented role against martial laws in the past. “The Senate has neither given way to a dictator in the past nor will it do so in the days ahead.”

Leader of the House in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq informed the lawmakers that he had taken up the matter concerning the bill with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi who said he would talk to the Sindh chief minister before embarking on a visit to Turkey.

Following the discussion on an adjournment motion moved by Senator Sherry Rehman about an interim award issued by the London Court of International Arbitration directing Pakistan to immediately pay Rs14 billion to nine IPPs, the Senate chairman recalled a resolution passed by the house on Feb 13 this year on enhancement of the upper house’s powers, and pointed out that there was a clause stating that every borrowing should be ratified by parliament.

He was of the view that all agreements should also be ratified by parliament and said he was inclined to give a ruling on the issue of arbitration but had restricted himself because another house was also involved. Mr Rabbani said he would write to the National Assembly speaker for the constitution of a parliamentary committee to oversee arbitration matters. He suggested that the parliamentary panel should comprise law committees of the house.

Earlier, Sherry Rehman, while speaking on the motion, said it was disturbing and shocking that Pakistan had been asked by the London Court of International Arbitration to pay Rs14bn to the IPPs, including outstanding bills and interest payments. “It is also crucial to point out that overdue payments of independent power producers have increased to a whopping Rs205bn. Where is the govt?” she asked.

She pointed out that earlier this year the then minister for water and power, Khawaja Asif, had acknowledged that the government owed Rs161bn to IPPs of which Rs69bn was under litigation. These fines were paid from taxpayers’ money due to the government’s negligence, she regretted.

“What is more shocking is that the government tried to keep this international arbitration case hidden. The absence of parliamentary oversight, especially in key international arbitration cases, is a major reason why Pakistan has been losing several important international cases. What is the point of a parliament when such crucial developments are kept secret,” she wondered.

Minister for Power Awais Leghari, while describing the issue as serious, said the space being exploited by the IPPs had been given to them under the contracts signed in the past. He said power plants had been established in the past without giving advertisement. He said the attorney general office was looking into the matter of arbitration and whatever was in the best interest of the government would be done.

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2017