ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Interior on Monday approved the Islamabad Pure Food Authority Bill 2019, paving the way for such a body to be set up in the capital.

The committee held a detailed discussion on the bill, which was introduced by Senator Sajjad Hussain Turi.

The bill states that safe, secure and hygienic food is the basic right of every man and woman and every state is duty bound to ensure the availability of safe, secure and hygienic food to its citizens.

“Safe and hygienic food is the first line of defence against diseases. In Pakistan this is one of the most regrettable facts that our food lacks hygienic qualities and adulterated by people who are manufacturing, preparing or selling food items for their illegal gains. It is again one of the most regrettable facts that our existing legal regime is too weak to control food adulteration and make sure the availability of hygienic food to the residents of Islamabad,” the bill’s objective reads.

It adds that “low punishments and lack of enforcement mechanism” has encouraged people to manufacture, prepare and sell unhygienic and adulterated food.

A similar bill moved by a local MNA has been approved by the NA committee on interior, senators told

The bill seeks to establish a food authority in the capital and appoint officials in this regard. It also provides a “comprehensive mechanism for regulating and managing food items” as well as punishments for those involved in the business of adulterated and unhygienic food.

The committee passed the bill after increasing the punishment from six months to three years and including all the amendments proposed by the Ministry of Interior pertaining to administrative aspects of the authority.

Members praised the bill and said it was the need of the hour in the face of increasing reports of hazardous food being imported, sold and supplied across the country.

Committee chair Senator Rehman Malik said the availability of pure food is the government’s responsibility and this bill would prove highly beneficial in this regard. He added that he wished a similar bill would also be introduced at the provincial level.

According to a working paper from the Islamabad Capital Territory administration presented before the committee, a bill of the same nature has already been introduced in the National Assembly by MNA Ali Nawaz Awan. It was forwarded to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior, which passed it in October this year.

The ICT administration supported the bill through its working paper, and the bill was passed by the Senate committee after discussion.

The proposed food authority that would be formed if the bill is passed by parliament will be headed by the Islamabad chief commissioner and consist of more than a dozen members from the ministries of national health services, interior and food security, two MNAs, two consumer representatives, one food industry representative and one representative from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The meeting also passed a resolution that sought for former president Asif Ali Zardari to be moved from Islamabad to Karachi.

Senator Malik converted the demand of Senator Kulsoom Parveen into a resolution and passed it with majority votes. He said the Senate committee had taken suo motu notice of Mr Zardari’s health and urged the government to allow him to be treated by his personal doctor.

He added that on Nov 30, the committee was informed that his personal physician has been included on the medical board. He said that Mr Zardari’s family resides in Karachi, due to which there is every reason to move him from Islamabad to Karachi. He added that there was no legal justification that he could be tried in a city other than his home city.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2019