ISLAMABAD, Nov 18: The opposition on Friday succeeded in persuading Senate Chairman Mohammadmian Soomro to refer the matter of purchasing “low-quality tents” for the earthquake victims to the relevant committee of the house.

Speaking on a point of order, Leader of the Opposition Raza Rabbani said the opposition had boycotted Thursday’s session on the tents issue and wanted to continue it on Friday. However, it had decided to participate in the proceedings as it did not want to embarrass the government at a time when several foreign dignitaries were in the capital to attend the donors conference, he said.

Mr Rabbani said that though the opposition members had ended their boycott in the larger interest of the quake victims, they would continue to press the issue.

He said that he had directed opposition members in the Senate standing committee on finance to requisition a committee meeting to discuss the issue, if it was not referred by the chairman.

Leader of the House Wasim Sajjad welcomed the opposition leader’s gesture and said there had to be no question over government’s sincerity to deal with all relief relating matters in a transparent manner.

He, however, asked the chairman to refer the matter of tents to the committee on textile industry, instead of the finance committee.

Federal Minister for Textile Industry Mushtaq Ali Cheema said he had no objection if the matter was referred to the standing committee on finance.

Later, the chairman referred the matter to the committee and said he would decide later as to which committee it should be referred.

Opposition members have been protesting in the Senate for two days over the issue of government purchasing “bad-quality tents” for the quake victims.

They had accused the minister of getting the specifications of tents changed and exploiting the situation to his benefits.

Meanwhile, taking part in the debate on the situation arising out of the Oct 8 earthquake, Pakistan Muslim League (PML) Senator Nisar Memon paid rich tributes to doctors, volunteers, political parties, NGOs and the whole nation for helping the earthquake victims soon after the disaster.

He described the criticism of army for its alleged delayed response to the earthquake disaster as uncalled for.

The senator said the earthquake struck the country at 8.52am and two helicopters of the Pakistan army were flying over the collapsed Margalla Towers at 9.05am.

He claimed that the chief of general staff conducted the aerial surveillance of Azad Kashmir at 11am and the general officer commanding (GOC), Murree, reached Muzaffarabad at 11.15am to supervise the rescue and relief operations.

Mr Memon condemned those leaders who had been raising different political issues within the party or between the parties at this time of national disaster. He also defended the decision to allow North Atlantic Treaty Oraganization (Nato) forces to carry out relief operations in the earthquake-affected areas.

Mr Memon asked the opposition to invite Gen Musharraf to address a joint sitting of the parliament. He said the opposition should give a patient hearing to the president and the opposition members should give the assurance that they would not do desk thumping during the address.

Senator Syed Hidayatullah Shah of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) said he belonged to the most-affected area of Mansehra and claimed that the army reached the earthquake-hit areas after three days.

He said people had remained under the debris for three days and kept on crying for help, but no one was there to remove the rubble.

The MMA senator called for handing over the relief and reconstruction works to the elected representatives of the people.

He regretted that the government had failed to restore electric and water supply to many affected areas. He was also critical of the government’s decision to invite Nato forces in the country. He said the Pakistan army troops busy in military operation in Waziristan should be deployed in the earthquake-affected areas.

Later, the Senate chairman adjourned the session until 3.30pm on Monday.



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