NA rights body meeting cancelled after minister-Bilawal row over agenda

Published January 31, 2022
SIAL SHARIF: PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addresses his supporters during a public gathering on Sunday.—PPI
SIAL SHARIF: PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addresses his supporters during a public gathering on Sunday.—PPI

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Secretariat has announced the cancellation of a meeting of the human rights committee of the house following differences between government and opposition members after the federal minister concerned expressed her “reservations” that the agenda for the meeting was unilaterally finalised by its chairman, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

In a letter to the committee chair, a copy of which is available with Dawn, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari took issue with non-inclusion of agenda items that were requisitioned by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) members.

She also objected to the inclusion of an item which, in her view, could not be taken up by the committee as it was a provincial matter.

In her letter, the minister quoted Rule 239 of the Rules and Procedure for Conduct of Business in the National Assembly 2007 and demanded that the issue of the killing of Nazim Jokhio be inclu­ded on the committee’s agenda, as demanded by the PTI members.

PTI members unhappy with their suggestions being left out of committee business

Rule 239 titled “Agenda and Notices of Meetings of Committees” reads: “the timetable of business of a committee and the agenda for each meeting of the committee shall be determined by the chairman (of the committee) in consultation with the minister concerned.”

“The eight members of the standing committee had earlier requisitioned the meeting of standing committee wherein the first agenda item regarding the torturing to death of an innocent villager Nazimuddin Jokhio allegedly at the hands of a feudal lord and MPA … at Memon Village, District Malir may please be taken on the agenda of the forthcoming,” says the letter written by the minister.

Later, an office memorandum issued by the ministry informed the National Assembly Secretariat that “at present, the minister for human rights does not agree to the convening of the meeting on Feb 2”.

PTI members had been critical of Mr Bhutto-Zardari for not convening the meeting in accordance with their requisition notice, which was submitted in November last year. They maintained that under the rules, the committee chairman was bound to convene the meeting within 14 days of the requisition.

Talking to Dawn on Sunday, PTI lawmaker Lal Chand said they had submitted the requisition to discuss the murders of Nazim Jokhio in Malir and Fahmida Siyal at Qambar Shahdadkot, as well as the issue of forced conversions in Sindh.

Mr Chand, who is also the parliamentary secretary for human rights, regretted that the agenda issued by the committee secretary for Feb 2 did not mention the requisitioned agenda items, except the issue of forced conversions.

He alleged that Mr Bhutto-Zardari, who is also chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), was intentionally trying to avoiding discussion on these issues.

“Almost three months have passed and the chairman has not called the committee meeting, which itself indicates the interest of [Mr Bhutto Zardari],” he said, adding that the PPP leader had not chaired the previous two meetings of the committee, which were led by another PPP MNA, Shazia Marri.

As per Mr Chand, this is not the first such incident. On July 16 last year, he recalled, PTI members had requisitioned a meeting to discuss two issues, including the alleged failure to provide justice to a girl, Umme Rabab, whose family members had been brutally murdered four years ago. Two PPP members of the Sindh Assembly were nominated in the case.

Dawn tried to seek the PPP’s perspective on the matter but both Mr Bhutto Zardari and Shazia Marri were unavailable for comment.

‘Imran has lost people’s confidence’

Separately, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said on Sunday that PM Imran Khan could not remain in power for long as he had lost the people’s confidence.

Addressing a public meeting in Sial Sharif, Sargodha where former PTI ticket holder from NA-92, Pir Sahebzada Naeemunddin Sialvi, formally joined the PPP, Mr Bhutto Zardari said

The PPP chairman chided the prime minister retracted on all his promises and ‘destroying’ the country in the name of change.

Referring to the recently passed State Bank bill allegedly on IMF’s demand, he said he knew that the deal with the IMF is not in the interest of the people as it compromises on the nation’s sovereignty and that the people are bearing the brunt of this deal.

He said that in his Feb 27 long march, he would go to the people to tell them it was vital for the country to get rid of Imran Khan.

Hoping that the people would not listen to the lies of “the selected” because they have had enough, he said the current government had come to power after making claims of eradicating corruption. However, he said that during the last three years, it has reached record-breaking heights.

Amjad Mahmood also contributed to this story from Lahore

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2022

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