ISLAMABAD: Opposition senators belonging to Balochistan and Sindh on Monday questioned the establishment of the National Coastal Development Authority (NCDA) and termed it an attack on provincial rights.
The senators alleged that the federal government had encroached upon provincial autonomy granted under the 18th Constitutional Amendment through creation of the NCDA and the move could increase a sense of deprivation among provinces.
The Senate which met after a two-day recess also witnessed a debate on the issue of non-payment of salaries to journalists and other media persons by various TV channels and newspapers after reporters staged a walkout from the press gallery and threatened to observe a complete boycott of the house proceedings, if the issue was not resolved soon.
The lawmakers, speaking on points of order, also condemned the arrest of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) chief Manzoor Pashteen and demanded his immediate release, warning that there could be a strong backlash of the government move.
Opposition senators term move attack on provincial rights
Initiating the debate on the “functioning of the newly-established NCDA”, Mir Kabeer Ahmed Shahi of the National Party (NP) said there was no need for establishing such an authority at the federal level when such authorities were already functioning in Sindh and Balochistan for the development of coastal areas.
Mr Shahi said if the Centre was sincere in helping provinces in promoting coastal tourism, it should help provinces and provide finances.
The NP senator alleged that the land purchased from the local people at a cost of Rs3.5 million was now being sold for Rs2.5m. He said nationalist parties were already holding protests over the issue.
“We will not let anyone occupy the land of Sindh and Balochistan,” he declared.
Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq asked the federal government to trust the provinces. He said the Balochistan issue was already a sensitive and the government should not create new controversies.
Dr Sikandar Mandhro of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) alleged that after the passage of the 18th Constitution Amendment, the federal government was now creating new departments and institutions in fields of health and education to deprive provinces of their rights. With such actions, he said, the sense of deprivation among the people would increase and were detrimental for the federation.
Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) recalled the East Pakistan tragedy and said they should learn a lesson from the Dhaka Fall and should avoid such measures which caused hatred between provinces and the Centre.
Responding to the speeches, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Azam Swati said the federal government was ready to sit with provinces to hear their grievances and to provide them all out support and help for the promotion of coastal tourism.
Senators from across the divide expressed concern over non-payment of salaries to journalists and other media workers for the past many months.
The senators expressed their support when the journalists sitting in the press gallery walked out during proceedings on the issue and over the death of a cameraman of a TV channel after receiving his termination letter instead of salaries.
Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani referred the matter to the Standing Committee on Information with the directive to submit a report within a week.
Senator Mir Kabir Shahi said the government should not release advertisement dues of media houses till they pay salaries of all media workers employed by them.
Senator Sherry Rehman proposed that the information about those media houses which were not giving salaries should be laid before the house. She also said that the house should be presented with complete data regarding TV channels not paying salaries and the number of affected media workers.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said the federal government had made payments to media houses which were owed by the previous government. However, it was a matter of concern that media workers did not get their salaries, he said, adding that media houses got 80 per cent of their revenues from private sector advertisements.
Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2020