Government urged to share terms of IMF accord with Senate

Updated 29 Feb 2020

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“Will the IMF override decisions taken by the prime minister and the cabinet?” asks Rabbani. — AFP/File
“Will the IMF override decisions taken by the prime minister and the cabinet?” asks Rabbani. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: During Friday’s Senate session, the government was urged to disclose the terms of agreement reached with International Monetary Fund (IMF) to get a $6 billion bailout package.

Speaking in the lower house of parliament, PPP leader Mian Raza Rabbani said the three-member team which negotiated the deal with the IMF consisted of the adviser to the prime minister on finance, a technocrat, the State Bank of Pakistan governor – a former employee of the IMF, and the finance secretary, a bureaucrat. “This makes it clear that elected representatives have no value,” he added.

Mr Rabbani said reports suggested that electricity tariff would go up under a condition set by the agreement despite Prime Minister Imran Khan’s announcement of plans to freeze power and gas tariffs. “Will the IMF override decisions taken by the prime minister and the cabinet?” he asked.

On Mr Rabbani’s demand, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani asked the adviser to the PM on finance to come and share with the House details of the agreement with the IMF.

World powers asked to take notice of blatant human rights violations in India

On another occasion, Mr Rabbani questioned the claims of success on the foreign policy front being made by the government. He said while the government was upbeat over US President Donald Trump’s offer for mediation on Kashmir, it forgot that he was the man who gave legitimacy to Israeli claim on the Golan heights, recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and proposed a so-called Middle East peace plan heavily tilted in Israel’s favour. “He [Trump] did not have the moral courage to raise the issue of genocide of Kashmiris and lockdown of occupied Kashmir for the last 210 days, and the bloodbath in New Delhi where he was present. So what we are trumpeting about?” he wondered.

Quoting from a joint communiqué signed by the United States and India at the conclusion of Mr Trump’s visit, Mr Rabbani said part of it read: “Noting that a strong and capable Indian military supports peace, stability, and a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific, and reaffirming his pledge to support the transfer to India of advanced US military technology...”

He said it also read: “President Trump and Prime Minister Modi denounced any use of terrorist proxies and strongly condemned cross-border terrorism in all its forms. They call on Pakistan to ensure that no territory under its control is used to launch terrorist attacks, and to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks, including 26/11Mumbai and Pathankot.”

Mr Rabbani said while reiterating his offer for mediation, President Trump also said Pakistan was working on Kashmir. He asked the foreign ministry to explain what measures were being taken on Kashmir “behind the scene” and regretted that the parliament was unaware of it.

The issue of coronavirus was also discussed in the House. “This forum should have been used to impart vital information about coronavirus pandemic and its current status in the country without causing panic. Our job is to protect the citizens but where we are on that front,” PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said.

She said: “This is a global issue and even the likes of China, which happens to be a robust constructive economy with an exemplary spirit to fight back, are struggling to cope up with it. How will Pakistan tackle such a crippling crisis? Country­wide, schools are shutting down.

“The situation necessitates an urgent briefing by the government to take the nation into confidence. If I were health minister I would be proactively standing in this House right now. The prime minister himself should have been present here. I am not trying to pin the blame on anyone province as the virus could spread anywhere, but a student from Iran who flew in and was infected with it had complained of the symptoms, but no tests were performed on him. There’s a risk of more and more people getting infected as we know how this [virus] can spread exponentially,” Ms Rehman said.

“A young woman ... said that she went to the National Institute of Health to get tested for the virus. She was weeping as she gave an account of how she was made to wait for 40 minutes before she was initially refused. She was later administered the test after much pushing ... In Karachi however people are getting checked for the virus at the Jinnah terminal. Without delay, directives should have been issued from the floor of this House regarding testing spots for the virus to give a sense of clarity to the people who have no guidance on how to take precautions,” Senator Rehman said.

Leader of the House in the Senate Syed Shibli Faraz, in a statement on behalf of the Ministry for National Health Services, said the National Action Plan for the COVID-19 prevention and management had been developed and a national core committee was monitoring the situation and preparedness measures. He said standard guidelines had been developed by the ministry for screening of suspected patients and shared with all stakeholders. He said that a health helpline for COVID-19 (the disease caused by coronavirus) was being established while the Public Health Emergency Operation Centre had been activated for reviewing the situation, risk assessment and follow-up of the cases on a daily basis.

Speeches were also made on the situation obtaining in India involving communal riots and the world powers were asked to take notice of the blatant human rights violations in India.

PML-Nawaz Parliamentary Leader of in the Senate Mushahidullah Khan said the world should intervene in what was happening in India. Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq said Pakistan should play its role over recent happenings in India as minorities were not safe there.

Published in Dawn, February 29th, 2020