Opposition walks out of Senate to protest islands ordinance

Updated 21 Oct 2020

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A screengrab from the Senate session. — DawnNewsTV
A screengrab from the Senate session. — DawnNewsTV

ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the Senate on Tuesday staged a walkout from the house in protest against what it called the Centre’s intent to gobble up assets and properties of Sindh and Balochistan.

The walkout was staged soon after former Senate chairman and PPP stalwart Mian Raza Rabbani, while speaking on a privilege motion against promulgation of the Pakistan Island Development Authority (PIDA) Ordinance, accused the federal government of violating the Constitution.

He said the ordinance promulgated in August was published in the official gazette on Sept 2, but it had not been laid before the house for the fear of a resolution against it. Pointing out that Sindh had more than 300 islands, he said the Centre had an eye on them and alleged that it was playing a game to benefit its cronies in the name of development.

Mr Rabbani questioned the government’s complete control over the Riko Diq project in Balochistan and said “what would you call a Centre trying to devour properties of its federation units”. Raising a legal point, he said that “they are talking about tourism which is a provincial subject now”. Tourism was there on the concurrent list which was abolished under the 18th Amendment and the subject was devolved to the provinces, he recalled.

Centre accused of trying to devour assets, properties of Sindh and Balochistan

He referred to Article 152 of the Constitution which reads: “The Federation may, if it deems necessary to acquire any land situate in a Province for any purpose connected with a matter with respect to which Parliament has power to make laws, require the Province to acquire the land on behalf, and at the expense, of the Federation or, if the land belongs to the Province, to transfer it to the Federation on such terms as may be agreed or....”

The PPP senator said that since no agreement had been reached with the province, the promulgation of the ordinance was a violation of the Constitution. “This extra-constitutional way of rule and advancement towards one unit is a dangerous tendency,” he warned.

He said the ordinance was in violation of ruling of the Supreme Court and a judgement of the Sindh High Court as well. Stressing that it was a clear case of breach of privilege and usurpation of rights and properties of the provinces, he asked the chair to admit the motion.

Throughout during his remarks, the opposition members kept on chanting slogans “shame, shame”. Soon after Mr Rabbani concluded his speech and Leader of the House in the Senate Shahzad Waseem took the floor, the opposition staged a token walkout from the house.

Shahzad Waseem, in the absence of the opposition, said the federal government respected all federation units and their autonomy within the constitutional ambit. He alleged that the opposition talked much about the 18th Amendment but shooed away from discussion on its essence.

He said the purpose of the amendment was to devolve powers and functions by the Centre to the provinces and from the provinces to the local governments. He, however, said: “They turned it into an insurance policy for them.”

Responding to reference by Mr Rabbani of Article 172(2), Mr Waseem clarified that the article read “all lands, minerals and other things of value within the continental shelf or underlying the ocean beyond the territorial waters of Pakistan shall vest in the Federal Government”, and not with the provincial governments as claimed by the PPP senator. He said the prime minister and the Sindh governor had already assured that nothing would be done without taking the province on board.

Mr Waseem was on his feet when the opposition members chanting slogans “Island Ordinance unacceptable” entered the house, prompting him to say: “The circus has begun again.”

He asked the opposition to have a meaningful discussion on issues with the government.

Mr Waseem could not conclude his speech as quorum was pointed out by the opposition. Quorum bells were rung and a count was made. Only 11 out of over 100 members were present and the house was adjourned to meet again on Thursday at 4pm.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2020