ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Wednesday called for forming a parliamentary panel to probe issues linked with “economic terrorism”.
Referring to the 5,000 fake bank accounts allegedly used to stash billions of dollars abroad, he said the proposed parliamentary committee would see to whom these accounts belonged to.
Speaking in the Senate, Mr Chaudhry said information received from 10 countries showed that these accounts had been used to launder Rs700 billion. He said the committee should also see as to how allocations made in successive budgets had been spent and why the government was forced to lend money to pay back loans.
The idea was endorsed in principle by Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani who promised to consult the leader of the house and the leader of the opposition in the Senate, besides discussing it with the National Assembly speaker.
Senate sees walkout over Fawad Chaudhry’s remarks against opposition politicians
The information minister regretted the remarks made against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leadership by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Mushahidullah Khan on Monday and said the language used was deplorable and the member or his party should tender an apology for it.
The Senate chairman, however, asked the minister not to vitiate the atmosphere, pointing out that the member concerned was not present in the house.
At this, Mr Chaudhry said he too was not present in the house when the PML-N leader made objectionable remarks. He wondered why he could not speak on how the country had been run by the previous governments. Referring to a case relating to illegal construction of shops on the land of Baba Farid shrine in Pakpattan, the permission for which had been granted in 1985 when PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif was the chief minister, Mr Chaudhry said they did not even spare shrines.
The chairman once again interrupted the minister and said the matter was sub judice.
Mr Chaudhry regretted that whenever somebody talked of investigations into corruption, accountability and fake accounts, the atmosphere in the Senate was vitiated. “It is inappropriate to sweep everything under the carpet.”
Things apparently calmed down afterwards, but rumpus ruled the house over the information minister’s remarks in response to a calling-attention notice moved by Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and others raised the issue of slow pace of work on the Quetta airport and use of substandard material.
Mr Kakar regretted that while big airports had been constructed in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, the expansion work on the Quetta airport that was supposed to be completed by December last year was constantly being delayed.
Responding to the notice, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said the PkMAP remained an ally of the previous PML-N government for five years, but they never bothered to question their allies for the delay.
This infuriated the PkMAP senators who shouted at the minister not to say anything against the previous government and instead focus on the delay.
As if what Mr Khan had said was not enough, the information minister stood up again to hold responsible top opposition leaders by name. He said Zardaris, Achakzais and Fazlur Rahmans were to blame if no uplift work could be carried out in the provinces despite provision of substantial funds. “They are the ones who looted the country.”
He also asked as to where the hefty amount of Rs42 trillion given to Balochistan over the last 10 years had been spent. “Mehmood Khan Achakzai had appointed his brother as governor of the province and had made the whole government his slave and is now giving us lectures,” he said, adding that the opposition had no right to talk like this.
“In which capacity these people are talking as these are the people who are responsible for the backwardness of the province,” he said. “There should be a committee comprising members of the Senate to probe ‘economic terrorism’ by Achakzais and Co.”
As the minister continued to hold allies of the PML-N in Balochistan responsible for the province’s backwardness, the combined opposition parties staged a walkout in protest.
Leader of the House Shibli Faraz, Senator Faisal Javed and Minister for Privatisation Mohammad Mian Soomro tried to persuade the opposition members to come back and join the proceedings, but to no avail.
When the Senate chairman reminded the information minister that it was government’s responsibility to run the house smoothly, the latter retorted that the chair should also show some concern about the ‘poor’ the way he was giving importance to the opposition members.
“Everything is alright if we don’t talk about the corruption of these protesting senators, but the moment we say something about their corruption … they start agitating. We will expose whoever is involved in plundering the national wealth no matter what,” Mr Chaudhry maintained.
In what signalled his readiness to bring his old rivalry with the information minister to an end, Mushahidullah Khan went to Mr Chaudhry and shook hands with him when he was exchanging harsh words with Usman Kakar.
Shibli Faraz proposed development of a code of conduct for the members and expressed his intention to hold a meeting with the opposition leader and parliamentary leaders — an idea that instantly won support of the chair as well.
The house will meet on Thursday (today) at 10.30 am.
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2018