Auto industry comes under fire in Senate

Updated 14 Jan 2020

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Senator Rehman Malik regretted that there was no check on prices of ‘locally manufactured’ cars and proposed establishment of a price and quality control authority.  — Reuters/File
Senator Rehman Malik regretted that there was no check on prices of ‘locally manufactured’ cars and proposed establishment of a price and quality control authority. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The local car industry came under fire in the Senate for assembling vehicles in the name of manufacturing, increasing prices without any checks and failing to maintain safety standards threatening lives of those who drive them.

Winding up discussion on the situation arising out of a decline in sale of cars and other vehicles in the country, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati informed the house that new rules were being put in place to punish the manufacturers of unsafe vehicles and said that a draft to this effect was before the federal cabinet.

He said the companies would be held responsible for an accident claiming lives, if the air bags in cars did not open and other standard safety safeguards were not in place. “They will have to pay multi-million rupees in fine.”

The minister said that under the new auto policy unveiled by the government, 18 new car manufacturing plants had been set up, five of which were on production line now. He said those who were in competition would include Chinese and Korean companies.

Bill proposing way forward on deadlock in appointment of CEC, ECP members lands in house

Mr Swati noted that the demand-supply factor determined market prices and the government could not fix the rates. He, however, said the prices would go down as the production went beyond the demand level. He agreed that the companies had been given a concession of zero tax on import of machinery, but they were assembling cars in the name of manufacturing.

Earlier, Senator Atiq Ahmad Shaikh said the automobile industry had been closed under a preconceived plan, adding that a cartel had been formed and poor quality vehicles were being assembled in the country. He said a mafia was in control to ensure immediate delivery on the payment of an additional amount in the name of ‘own’.

He said these companies kept on increasing prices without any check and failed to meet their commitments under which downstream factories were to be set up, adding that new investment in the sector could not be attracted because of this cartel.

Senator Nauman Wazir regretted that it was strange that Pakistan produced the most inexpensive tractors but at the same time the so-called ‘locally manufactured’ cars were the most inexpensive. He said most of the parts of cars were imported, adding that a number of incidents had been reported in which air bags did not open in case of accidents. He said that no crash tests were conducted and thus the unsafe cars threatened the lives of many.

Senator Mohsin Aziz also said the companies were not manufacturing cars in Pakistan, but were only assembling them, even after getting relief on duty.

Senator Rehman Malik regretted that there was no check on prices of ‘locally manufactured’ cars and proposed establishment of a price and quality control authority.

Deadlock in ECP appointments

As the deadlock on appointment of the chief election commissioner (CEC) and members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has kept the electoral body dysfunctional for over a month, a bill proposing way forward in case of such a stalemate landed in the Senate on Monday.

The bill introduced by retired Lt Gen Abdul Qayyum seeks to add a proviso to Article 213 (2A) of the Constitution under which the matter of appointment of the CEC and ECP members will stand referred to the Supreme Court in case the parliamentary panel on their appointment fails to confirm a name. The bill also seeks to amend Article 215 of the Constitution to add a proviso to its subsection 4 to provide for completion of the process to fill the anticipated vacancies in the ECP prior to the occurrence, so as to avoid any void.

Senator Qayyum pointed out that the parliamentary committee was sent three names each by the prime minister and the opposition leader for a vacant position of the CEC or an ECP member for confirmation in case the two failed to reach a consensus. He said that since the 12-member committee had equal representation of the government and the opposition, a deadlock there was possible. “And this is what has happened,” he remarked.

Mr Qayyum said that at present the Constitution was silent on the way forward and pointed out that the commission was incomplete following the retirement of ECP members from Sindh and Balochis­tan in January last year and had been dysfunctional for over a month after the retirement of the CEC.

He noted that important functions of the ECP, including delimitation, preparation and revision of electoral rolls, organising and conducting elections and education of voters, were affected by such stalemates and said the law needed to be amended to make sure that there was no void and the appointment of successors was made before the retirement of incumbents.

The parliamentary affairs minister agreed that the contentions were based on facts and said: “We have gone in a blind alley and there is no way forward.” He pointed out that under the rules, the parliamentary panel was required to confirm any nominations by a two-thirds majority. He said the unreasonable restriction further complicated the things and observed that the committee should also have a fresh set of rules.

Mr Swati, however, opposed the idea of referring the matter to the Supreme Court for a decision, saying there must be some clearly defined way forward.

The bill was referred to the standing committee concerned.

The Senate also passed the Post Office Bill proposing as many as 80 amendments to the 1898 law governing postal services structure to harmonise it with the modern day requirements and the Islamabad Commu­nity Integration Bill aimed at invoking potential of the community to address predicaments of the people at the local level.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2020