Senate chairman refers rulers’ foreign visits to house panel

Published January 5, 2022
A combination photo of Prime Minister Imran Khan (L), PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif (C) and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari (R). — Imran Khan FB page/AFP/DawnNewsTV
A combination photo of Prime Minister Imran Khan (L), PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif (C) and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari (R). — Imran Khan FB page/AFP/DawnNewsTV

ISLAMABAD: Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani on Tuesday referred the issue of foreign visits of Prime Minister Imran Khan and ex-rulers of the country to the house committee for a complete review and preparing a comparative report after the house witnessed a verbal clash between the opposition members and a government minister over the matter.

The opposition members staged a token walkout to register their protest over the statement made by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan while responding to a question about the foreign visits of Prime Minister Imran Khan over the past three years.

The Senate was informed in response to a question asked by Mushtaq Ahmed of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) that the prime minister had undertaken 31 visits of 14 countries during the last three years which cost the national exchequer over Rs200 million.

Reading out the written reply, the JI senator said Mr Khan had undertaken eight visits of Saudi Arabia, three visits each of China and the UAE and two visits each of Malaysia, Qatar, the US and Switzerland. Besides this, the prime minister had also visited Turkey, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Over 9,100 Pakistanis are languishing in jails of 73 countries

The JI senator said that according to the reply, which was not available to other senators and the reporters, on average 22 people accompanied the prime minister in these visits. He, however, said that in one of the visits to Saudi Arabia, the prime minister was accompanied by 44 people. He asked the government to tell as to what diplomatic and economic benefits the country had achieved from these visits.

Responding to the question, the minister as usual started lambasting the previous rulers, stating that he should be allowed time in the next few days so that he could present a comparison of the visits undertaken by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Zardari with those of Mr Khan.

The minister’s reply prompted a strong opposition’s protest, forcing the chairman to ask the minister to give a specific reply.

At this, the minister said PM Khan had never taken unnecessary people with him during the foreign visits. He said a number of security and protocol personnel, besides some concerned ministers, were among those who had visited Saudi Arabia with Mr Khan.

Sadia Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) asked the chairman to refer the matter to the committee where they would be able to analyse the foreign visits of the prime minister and compare them with the visits of the previous rulers. It was on her request that the Senate chairman referred the matter to the house committee concerned.

Mr Sanjrani also referred the issue of the publication of the tax directory of parliamentarians by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to the house committee on privileges with a directive to finalise the report within a week when Senator Sherry Rehman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) protested over it, terming it a part of the campaign to malign the politicians.

Giving examples of party colleagues, she said the FBR had provided wrong information which was highlighted by the media giving an impression that the parliamentarians were thieves and robbers and did not pay taxes.

Earlier, during the question hour, the Senate was informed that currently 9,191 Pakistanis were languishing in jails of 73 countries.

The details provided to the house show that the highest number of 2,555 prisoners are in jails of Saudi Arabia, followed by 1,918 in the UAE and 884 in Greece. The other countries with higher number of Pakistani prisoners included Afghanistan (395), India (345), Oman (309), Italy (291), the UK (273), Turkey (265), China and Malaysia (242 each), Qatar (189), Spain (163), Hong Kong (130), Germany (105), Iraq (109), Iran (100), France (98), Kuwait (65), Bahrain (56), the US (52) and Australia (48).

The Senate was also informed that there were three Pakistani nationals being held in Guantanamo Bay. These Pakistanis are Saifullah Paracha, Mohammad Ahmad Rabbani aka Ahmad Ghulam Rabbani and Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani.

Saifullah Paracha was taken into custody by the US authorities from Bangkok in 2003. According to the US authorities, he was providing financial, media and other material support to Al Qaeda leaders and operational planners.

Mohammad Ahmad Rabbani was arrested in 2002 and had admitted to working with Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. According to the US authorities, he was a travel and financial facilitator for Al Qaeda leaders.

Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani was arrested in 2002 and he worked as Al Qeada facilitator.

The Senate was informed that the government was in contact with Washington regarding the three prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay.

“We have had consular access to them as well. The last visit was conducted on November 4, 2021,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi informed the house through a written reply.

The Senate also passed four bills related to human rights. These bills are: the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Amendment) Bill, 2021; the National Commission on the Rights of Child (Amendment) Bill, 2021; the Juvenile Justice System (Amendment) Bill, 2021; and the Islamabad Capital Territory Child Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2022

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