Allies lambaste PM Imran for remarks about Reko Diq in NA session

Published March 11, 2020
Bills proposing bar on dual national civil servants, open ballot for Senate polls land in NA. — APP/File
Bills proposing bar on dual national civil servants, open ballot for Senate polls land in NA. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday witnessed rumpus and had to be abruptly adjourned after a minister apparently spoiling for a fight drifted from the agenda to criticise Sharif family members for staying abroad and accuse the PPP-led Sindh government of indulging in massive corruption.

The opposition members rose in their seats in protest when Minister for Communications Murad Saeed was given the floor by the chair to respond to questions that had not even been asked by any lawmaker.

Ignoring the clamour from the opposition benches, Mr Saeed said that according to media reports on inside stories about a PML-N meeting, the questions being asked by the nation also came under discussion during an internal meeting of the party.

He said Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif had become a guarantor of his convicted elder brother Nawaz Sharif and now nobody appeared to be ready to return.

Bills proposing bar on dual national civil servants, open ballot for Senate polls land in NA

The minister said a number of Sharif family members had fled the country. “The PML-N had given keys of the national kitty to a man [Ishaq Dar] who is a proclaimed offender now,” he said and asked Shahbaz Sharif to announce when he would be coming to Pakistan.

The PTI leader criticised the Sindh government for alarmingly high dog-bite cases in the province and allocation of hundreds of millions of rupees in the name of containing the problem. He said the collapse of substandard buildings in Karachi was a constant problem and the reason behind this was an acute level of corruption. “They have put the lives of people of Karachi at stake,” he remarked.

Mr Saeed demanded that a commission be constituted to probe the killing of Aziz Memon, a journalist associated with a Sindhi TV channel. Without naming anybody, he said Memon was receiving threats from a family.

The opposition members during the minister’s speech kept on pointing out that it was private members’ day and he had no right to speak on something that was neither on agenda nor had been raised in the house.

Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, however, not only allowed the minister to speak, but also told the protesting opposition lawmakers that he would adjourn the proceedings if there was no order in the house. Around 80 per cent of the agenda could not be taken up as the chair abruptly adjourned the house to meet again on Wednesday (today) at 11am.

Earlier, the ruling PTI’s allies came down hard on Prime Minister Imran Khan for his statement that the assets of Reko Diq would be sold out to pay off the country’s loans. The issue was raised by Aslam Bhotani, an independent MNA from Balochistan, on a calling attention notice. Mr Bhotani, who otherwise supports the PTI government, voiced concern over the remarks and lamented that despite being a resource-rich province, Balochistan continued to face problems and deprivation.

He said gas had been discovered in Sui in 1952, but not even 10 per cent of the people of Balochistan have got it today. He said the province got only 2pc from the Saindak project, while 48pc and 50pc went to the federal government and China, respectively.

Mr Bhotani claimed that Balochistan produced 2,000MW of electricity against its requirement of 1,200MW, but it got only 600-700MW and continued to suffer 12-14 hours of loadshedding in many areas. He said Reko Diq belonged to Balochis­tan and its youth would not tolerate any injustice. “Balochistan is neither a derelict province nor is it for sale,” he remarked.

Some other lawmakers from Balochistan also expressed concern over the prime minister’s remarks and Parliamentary Secretary Khiyal Zaman in response agreed that under the 18th Amendment, the provinces had the right over their resources.

Sardar Akhtar Mengal of the Balochistan National Party, an ally of the ruling party, however, observed that the answer to the prime minister’s remarks was not coming. “Is it not against the 18th Amendment?” he asked.

He said Balochistan’s resources had been blatantly looted and asked if it was being considered a conquered area. He said Rs300 billion reserves of gold and silver from Balochistan had been sold and the province merely got two per cent share out of it. He said that Article 158 of the Constitution continued to be violated.

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said the prime minister wanted to rectify the mistakes of past and was a strong believer of provincial autonomy and rights of the weaker provinces.

Some important bills were also introduced in the assembly. Junaid Akbar introduced a law binding the members of the national and provincial assemblies to follow party discipline in Senate elections and proposing the polls through show of hands. The bill was supported by the government.

Jam Abdul Karim introduced a bill proposing bar on dual nationality holder civil servants.

Akhtar Mengal moved a bill under which only people from Gwadar will be issued CNICs from the port city and they will get themselves registered as voters from there.

Shazia Marri of the PPP moved a bill proposing to amend the Pakistan Penal Code to define ‘rape’.

A bill aimed at preventing use of drugs in educational institutions was introduced by Shahida Rehmani. The bill suggests blood tests of students and rehabilitation of those found to be drug users.

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2020

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