NA’s third parliamentary year ends with low-key sitting

Published August 13, 2021
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan speaks during the National Assembly session on Thursday. — Photo courtesy National Assembly Twitter
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan speaks during the National Assembly session on Thursday. — Photo courtesy National Assembly Twitter

ISLAMABAD: The third parliamentary year of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government ended on Thursday with a new precedent when the National Assembly gave vote of thanks to President Dr Arif Alvi for his address to a joint sitting of parliament even though no debate was held on the address.

The NA session that started after about 45 minutes’ delay passed a bill under which places of worship like mosques, Imambargahs, churches, temples and gurdwaras will be exempted from payment of TV licence fee being charged in electricity bills.

During the session, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MNAs raised objection to the summoning of six leaders of the party by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in a case related to contempt of court or an alleged propaganda against the chief justice of Pakistan.

Interestingly, the due debate of the address of the president remained on the agenda of the lower house throughout the parliamentary year, but no debate was held as only one member, Khawaja Asif, had spoken on it.

Under a constitutional obligation, the president addresses a joint sitting of the parliament at the beginning of a parliamentary year after which a debate is conducted in the National Assembly and at the end it is wound up by any government minister and vote of thanks is given to the president.

“It is a unique precedent in the parliamentary history of the country that vote of thanks has been given on the address of the president without any debate,” PPP MNA Syed Naveed Qamar said.

He said it was not the way that the debate on presidential address was wound up. “We were expecting that any minister will wind up the debate, but that did not happen,” he added.

FIA summons PPP lawmakers

PPP MNA Dr Nafeesa Shah said she had submitted two privilege motions in the house against summoning of five MNAs and three MPAs by the FIA in a contempt case. “We received FIA notices yesterday but we were humiliated in the media for last three days over the matter,” she said, adding that such notices should be sent home instead of presenting them to the media.

Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who was presiding over the session, referred the matter to the privilege committee headed by Speaker Asad Qaiser.

TV licence fee

The house passed a bill under which mandatory TV licence fee, which is charged in electricity bill, will not be obtained from mosques, Imambargahs, churches, Mandirs and Gurdwaras.

The bill said if any TV licence fee was added to the bill in future the management of the place of worship could get it rectified by the authorities concerned.

During the question hour, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan informed the house that the Pakistan Television (PTV) had received Rs8.8 billion under TV licence fee during the current year.

Replying to a calling attention notice by Raja Khurram Shahzad Nawaz on collection of TV licence fee from mosques, the minister said in principle TV fee should not be charged from religious places including mosques, seminaries, churches and temples.

However, he said some electricity connections of places of worship were installed in the names of private persons.

No TV fee would be charged if they submitted applications to PTV, he said.

Praising the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the minister said that the provincial government had allocated funds to switch over all mosques to solar energy across the province.

He said process for provision of stipend to Imams (prayer leaders) had also been started in KP. The process would be extended to Punjab, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Recruitments

Earlier, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan informed the National Assembly that 3,049 recruitments were made against six per cent Balochistan quota in the federal government departments during last three years.

Replying to a question raised by MNA Agha Hasan Baloch on the issue, the minister said that 6,400 vacant posts had been identified in federal departments for candidates from Balochistan and the recruitment process was under way.

Replying to another question regarding fake domiciles, he said that it was a provincial subject and Balochistan district administrations should identify fake domicile holders.

He said that the federal government was ready to take action against the employees holding fake domiciles. He said that on several occasions, the federal government had written to the district administrations asking them to identify fake domiciles. He said that he also recommended that recruitment policy should be changed for the Balochistan jobs.

He said that fake domiciles could only be identified by the local administrations and provinces.

Deputy Speaker Suri referred the issue to the relevant committee. He said that all issues related to jobs should be discussed by the committee.

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2021

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