ISLAMABAD: A day before Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is to brief senators on issues linked to national security and his recent foreign visits as part of his military diplomacy, the Senate on Monday called for curtailing military’s role in commercial and business activities to confine it to defence production and allied matters.

Discussing a motion moved by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Senator Mohsin Aziz, Pakistan Peoples Party’s Farhatullah Babar sought a gradual and planned shift of businesses and commercial activities from the military to the private sector to provide a level playing field to investors and make indigenous industry viable.

Referring to a recent disclosure made in the house that there were more than 50 Milbus (military in business) enterprises in the country ranging from cement, fertiliser and sugar production to banking and real estate among others, he lamented that answers to critical questions like contracts being awarded without bids and loans written off to military organisations were not available.

He said contracts for toll collection involving tens of millions of rupees a day were awarded to the Frontier Works Organisation without bids. The National Logistics Cell got away neatly when a bridge built by it in Karachi collapsed the day it was to be inaugurated by then military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, he added.

He was of the view that discrimination against local industry and private entrepreneurs and the absence of a level playing field was a factor impeding industrial progress in the country.

Earlier, Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani informed the house that Gen Bajwa, accompanied by Director General Military Operations (DGMO) Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, would brief the Senate’s committee on the security situation and give an institutional point of view of the armed forces about his recent visits abroad, particularly to Iran and Afghanistan.

He said the briefing would be followed by a question-hour session.

Mr Rabbani said he had written a letter to the army chief inviting him to the Committee of the Whole on Dec 12. He said that on Thursday an indication was received that the invitation had been accepted, following which he took the parliamentary leaders into confidence.

The house adopted a resolution recommending to the government to call upon the US for payment of compensation on account of lives lost and damage done to the lives and properties of innocent citizens of Pakistan as a result of drone strikes in the country since 2000.

The resolution moved by Senator Javed Abbasi of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz urged the authorities to send copies of the resolution to the UN General Assembly, Nato, European Union, and Com­monwealth Parliamentary Asso­cia­tion (Asia) member states in order to highlight impact of drone attacks on the social, economic and psychological conditions of the victims.

27 INGOs asked to close operations

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry confirmed to the Senate that as many as 27 international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) had been asked to close operations and offices in Pakistan.

He said 139 INGOs had applied for registration under the new policy unveiled on Oct 1, 2015, adding that 66 of them were allowed to operate in Pakistan after their work plans were approved while registration of 27 was cancelled.

Out of these 27 INGOs, six were denied permission to operate for being non-responsive, added the minister.

He said those denied permission had a right to file an appeal with a committee headed by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal within 90 days under the policy.

Another item on the day’s agenda was winding up discussion on “the situation arising out of the manner in which the recent sit-in at Faizabad was called off culminating in abject surrender of the rule of law and constitutionally established government before a stick and gun wielding mob”.

The Senate chairman informed the House that Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi would bring the discussion to close on Wednesday (Dec 20).

The Senate was adjourned to meet again today (Tuesday) at 3.30pm.

It is most likely to pass the delimitation bill following the acceptance of PPP’s demands by the government on the modus operandi of a third-party audit of census results in five per cent census blocks.

Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2017