ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman’s remarks berating Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan over his alleged fascist gestures created a furore in the Senate on Monday.

Videos and pictures from a recent ‘oath ceremony’ in Peshawar were shared on social media with many seeing similarities between the participants’ raised hands and the infamous salute preferred by the forces of Nazi Germany. The 30-second raised hand salute was led by Mr Khan, and also imitated by party leader Ali Amin Gandapur and others on the stage.

Speaking in the house on Monday, the PPP senator regretted that at a time when devastating floods had affected 33 million people in the country, the PTI chairman was taking “Nazi-style oaths” from his followers seeking their support for his supposed long march on Islamabad — the date and time for which hasn’t been announced yet. She criticised the oath-taking at a time when flood victims were in dire need of relief, including shelter and food.

“He is unable to gather people for his public meetings and is taking oaths for the long march. This is fascism,” she remarked.

Sherry Rehman refuses to withdraw comments despite PTI senators’ protest

Ms Rehman also berated Mr Khan over the recent audio leaks that allegedly exposed his indulgence in horse-trading and ‘misuse of charity accounts’.

Highlighting the gravity of the flood situation, she explained that it was not business as usual, adding that global estimates of the losses caused by floods stood at $40 billion, which were actually conservative estimates. She continued that unlike the 2010 floods, which had affected 20 million people, the recent natural calamity affected 33 million people, 13,000 kilometres of road infrastructure had been wiped away and 435 bridges uprooted.

“Our message is clear: we need to first save people from disease, poverty and despair,” the minister stressed. “It is time Imran Khan and the PTI played their part and desisted from sowing disorder and detracting from the gravest issue Pakistan has faced in living memory.”

Reacting to the minister’s remarks, PTI senators staged a noisy protest for some time and kept chanting “shame, shame”. Some of them demanded Ms Rehman withdraw her comments, which she not only refused, but also sought an apology from the PTI for allegedly playing with the lives of flood victims. She also spoke in the National Assembly on the impact of the catastrophic floods.

Meanwhile, in a rare, yet significant move, the treasury and opposition members in the Senate unanimously passed a resolution seeking abolition of the monopoly in the power sector to help provide cheap electricity to consumers.

The house recommended the government allow public-private partnership and the private sector to install solar-, wind- or local coal-based power plants in the country with a minimum 30-megawatt generation capacity and sell electricity to domestic, commercial and industrial consumers directly on a pre-determined tariff, through their own transmission and distribution grids.

PPP lawmakers Taj Haider, who moved the resolution on his behalf, and Saleem Mandviwala agreed to incorporate a minor amendment to specify the mode of electricity generation, proposed by PTI’s Mohsin Aziz to make the landmark idea acceptable for all.

Mr Haider explained that power producers under an agreement had to sell electricity to K-Electric in case of Karachi and distribution companies for the rest of the country, which resold it at much higher rates.

“How long will we follow these devastating traditions?” he asked.Through another resolution jointly moved by the opposition and treasury benches, the house called for rotating chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee between both houses of parliament for two and a half years each.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2022

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