Govt, opposition trade graft charges in Senate

Updated May 15, 2020

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Information minister alleges some parties want economy to collapse to get NRO. — APP/File
Information minister alleges some parties want economy to collapse to get NRO. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Thursday saw the government and opposition members trading corruption charges, with Minister for Information Shibli Faraz saying that some parties wanted the country’s economy to collapse so as to get NRO.

What sparked a debate on those responsible for loot and plunder was the accusation by PML-N parliamentary leader in the Senate Mushahidullah Khan that the present government deems corruption as worship. He also said the ministers responsible for the sugar and wheat flour scam had been promoted. “All the elite are there in the cabinet,” he remarked.

In response, Shibli Faraz said the elite were the people who went abroad for medical treatment and deemed themselves above the law. He referred to a press conference addressed by prime minister’s special assistant on accountability Shahzad Akbar and said the record showed that the party funds had been transferred to personal accounts.

He brushed aside the impression of discrimination against Sindh and said all provinces had been treated on an equal basis. He pointed out that Sindh had been provided resources to the tune of Rs 31 billion. He asked the opposition not to indulge in a blame game and join hands with the government in efforts to contain coronavirus and come up with suggestions. “Do not support Imran Khan, but do support the people of Pakistan.”

Information minister alleges some parties want economy to collapse to get NRO; Qureshi slams India over continuous violations along LoC

Mr Faraz said the country needed national unity to meet the economic challenges posed by the pandemic. He, however, said some parties wanted to see economic collapse to find an opportunity to get NRO.

He also expressed concern over violation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) and said this irresponsible attitude could have dangerous consequences. “In such a case, we will have to revert to strict lockdown — something which may cause deaths due to hunger.”

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan ruled out the possibility of the powers of the anti-graft watchdog being curtailed or a deadlock occurring in the accountability process. He said that 26 and 14 private member bills moved by the opposition were pending in the National Assembly and the Senate, respectively.

PML-N Senator retired Gen Abdul Qayyum chided Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi for his appearances before parliament to speak on coronavirus and reminded him that he had got a lot on his plate. He particularly referred to the situation in India-held Kashmir, Afghan peace process and the threat of a large number of Pakistani expatriates being laid off. He said coronavirus was an invisible enemy and the threat it poses should be taken seriously.

Mr Qayyum said the curve continued to ascend and vaccine might not be available in the near future. Underlining the need for developing a long-term strategy, he proposed that the interest rate should be slashed and the cash crop farmers and export-oriented industry be supported.

Jamaat-i-Islami emir Senator Sirajul Haq regretted that instead of fighting coronavirus, the federal and Sindh governments were trying to defeat each other. The virus, he said, had reached all parts of the country but the government had not provided safety kits even to the doctors. He said the budget was mostly spent on administration and the citizens were not getting basic health facilities. At the time of the Covid-19 outbreak, there were only 1300 ventilators for a population of 220 million.

Former interior minister Senator Rehman Malik said the government appeared to be confused over the definition of lockdown, adding that a smart lockdown meant to restrict the movement of the public in a specific area rather partially allowing the movement of the whole public across the country without proper preventative measures and following the World Health Organisation’s SOPs. “Unfortunately, our country will have a drastic increase in positive cases of coronavirus in upcoming days as after easing the lockdown, neither the people are observing social distancing nor is the government implementing the SOPs,” he remarked.

Mr Malik said the absence of the prime minister from parliament in these difficult moments was not a good message to the people of Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan should have attended the parliament sessions on coronavirus, he added.

The PPP senator asked the government to bear the charges of coronavirus tests of the poor patients. He said the poor patients might be tested either in government hospitals or reimbursement might be given to private clinics that provided the testing facility to the poor patients. He said it must be investigated as to how testing kits were imported on high price while he knew many suppliers who were willing to provide them in very low price as compared to the existing one.

Senators from Balochistan Mir Kabir Ahmad Shahi and Jehanzaib Jamaldini raised voice against nomination of Javed Jabbar as member of the National Finance Commission from Balochistan.

MQM Senator Mian Mohammad Ateeq Shaikh said the world would “completely” change in the next few months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Noting that there was an opportunity to earn from home, he urged the government to direct banks to provide loans with low mark-up to the youth for purchasing laptops and smartphones.

The Senate unanimously adopted a resolution thanking China for its strong support and timely assistance to Pakistan during the current coronavirus crisis. The house through the resolution expressed its deep appreciation to the government and people Chinese for their unflinching role as ‘all-weather friends’ of Pakistan.

The Senate rejected the baseless propaganda against China from certain quarters, which stems from geopolitical rivalry and is more an attempt to divert attention from their own internal failings as it has no factual basis.

Policy statement on Kashmir

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while making a policy statement on Kashmir in the house, said India was continuously committing violations along the Line of Control to divert the attention of the world and give a wrong impression to it that there was an infiltration going on in India from launching pads from across the borders.

He said these violations had increased to an alarming proportion and since January this year, India has committed 975 violations [along the LoC] in which six civilians were martyred and 69 critically injured. He said the international community and other human rights bodies were criticising the BJP-led government in India due to Pakistan’s diplomatic initiatives and outreach.

The minister said coronavirus-related lockdowns were making the world realise about the restrictions of fundamental freedoms being faced by the people of India-held Kashmir since last year. “Today the world is realising what a lockdown feels like. But Kashmiris have been under a continuous military siege and lockdown for the last nine months,” he said.

He said Kashmiris had been deprived of their fundamental freedoms such as right to life, right to health, right to food, right to assembly and right to expression since India striped the region of its special status last year. He said Pakistan wanted that India should be held accountable for its human rights violations in occupied Kashmir and other parts its own country.

“We want that international media and international observers should be allowed to visit IHK to see the situation there,” he said, adding that lockdown enforced in the held valley on Aug 5 last year and restrictions of peaceful assembly should be lifted from the disputed region immediately. “Food supplies should be restored [in the valley]… and draconian laws in IHK should be scrapped once for all,” he said.

Mr Qureshi demanded that Indian immediately withdraw its 900,000 occupation forces from held Kashmir and reverse its step of annexation of the disputed region. “We want to say that Pakistan will continue to highlight state terrorism of India at international forums and we stand by the wishes of the people of Kashmir about their right to self-determination,” he said.

The minister said they could have had their political differences but they were one when it came to Kashmir.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2020