ISLAMABAD: Amid criticism of the government for its failure to establish meaningful relations with the opposition in parliament for the passage of over 160 stalled bills, the National Assembly on Friday again witnessed pandemonium as the treasury and opposition members exchanged barbs after Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) lawmakers questioned the performance of the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) at the Prime Minister Office.
The PML-N legislators alleged that the ARU was formed only for arm-twisting of the opposition and it had failed to make significant recoveries since its inception in 2018.
PML-N leader Marriyum Aurangzeb in a written question had asked about the achievement of the ARU, which was formed to bring back the money stashed by Pakistanis abroad, administrative expenditure of the unit, details of foreign tours of its head Shahzad Akbar and expenses on them, who authorised such visits and about audit of the unit.
PML-N questions performance of Assets Recovery Unit, says unit formed for arm-twisting of opposition
Speaking on the floor of the house, Ms Aurangzeb said the government had lied in its written reply to a set of questions submitted to parliament. Criticising the performance of the ARU, she said: “Ask your leader [Prime Minister Imran Khan] that he was calling opposition leaders ‘thieves and robbers’, but none of his claim was proved.”
Speaker Asad Qaisar intervened and asked Ms Aurangzeb not to try to make political points and ask pertinent questions.
When a woman member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) taunted her, the PML-N leader angrily said: “She [PTI member] has no right to abuse me.”
Later talking to reporters, Ms Aurangzeb called for immediate arrest of PM Khan’s nephew Hassaan Niazi for his involvement in hooliganism at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) in Lahore. She also urged the Punjab government to allow the PIC — which has been sealed — to resume its operations.
“No case has so far been registered against Hassaan Niazi despite his clear involvement in the incident. He must be arrested and thorough investigation must be carried out into the attack on the hospital,” she added.
The PML-N lawmaker lamented that “complete collapse” of the Punjab government was seen in the incident and indirectly criticised the PTI. “Those who used to challenge the writ of the state in 2014, smashed open the heads of police officers at D-Chowk, we ask them: where was the Punjab government that day?
“Why the government is not presenting proofs against Shahbaz Sharif in the court and the same should have been mentioned in the written response submitted to parliament. When the government is asked why inflation has tripled and growth halved, they [PTI] present the same old argument of corruption by Nawaz and Shahbaz,” she said.
Another PML-N leader Khurram Dastagir also lashed out at Shahzad Akbar over the issue of recovery of 190 million pounds from real estate tycoon Malik Riaz through the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and said he had asked the government what role Pakistan had played in the recovery of “a few million pounds belonging to a Pakistani”, how much had been recovered and where the funds would be used? He said the government did not have an answer to the queries, adding that they would keep asking these questions on behalf of the people.
Talking about Punjab, the PML-N leader said there was a complete breakdown of governance and administration in the country’s largest province. He said the country was going through the worst kind of crisis as prices of tomatoes, flour, pulses, onions and other essential items were skyrocketing, but the government was doing nothing in this regard.
Earlier, in the National Assembly, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan accused the PML-N leadership of committing corruption and money laundering. “When they [PML-N leaders] asked what amount of money was recovered through the ARU, they should ask Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif about their corruption,” he added.
Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2019